Can You Get a DUI on a Boat in Oklahoma?

Can You Get a DUI on a Boat in Oklahoma?

From sailing on Lake Hefner to fishing on Lake Texoma, Oklahomans love to enjoy a day (or week) on the lake. And with nearly 200,000 registered boats and 38 major lakes, there are plenty of opportunities to get on the water.

You might also see law enforcement out there: marine enforcement officers oversee all of the lakes in Oklahoma. Some of the more popular lakes, including Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City and the Grand Lake O' the Cherokees, even have their own patrol units. These marine troopers are there to keep people safe and enforce the laws – including handing out DUIs on boats.

Can You Get a DUI on a Boat in Oklahoma?

Yes, you can get a DUI on a boat. It’s illegal to drive on both roadways and waterways while you’re intoxicated, and you can be charged with boating under the influence, or BUI. The law can be found in Oklahoma Statutes Title 63, Section 63, which can be summarized as:

  • It is illegal for a person to operate or be in actual physical control of a vessel on water, except privately owned waters, and
  • Have a blood or breath alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more, or
  • Be under the influence of any other intoxicating substance, or a combination with alcohol, that makes the person unable to safely operate the vessel.

Let’s break down the law to really understand what a BUI is and how you can get one.

1. Operate or Be In Actual Physical Control

It’s easy to understand the definition of “operating”: That’s when you’re physically driving the boat. But what is “actual physical control,” or APC? It means you can still get a BUI if you have immediate access to your boat, even if it isn’t in motion. If the boat is anchored, the driver can still get a BUI. But if the driver is away from the boat, for example on a beach, they can’t be cited or arrested until they return to the boat.

2. A Vessel on Water

What counts as a “vessel on water”? Unlike a vehicle on a roadway, the vessel doesn’t necessarily have to be motorized for you to get a DUI on a boat. Under the law, “vessel” includes sailboats, motorized boats, yachts, jet skis, personal watercraft, and sailboards, but it doesn’t include canoes and paddle boats. “Water” includes any body of water that isn’t privately owned.

3. Under the Influence of an Intoxicating Substance

Just like with a regular DUI, an officer will first look for physical signs you’re under the influence, like slurred speech or bloodshot eyes. That gives them probable cause to give you a breathalyzer or even arrest you and order a blood test if they suspect drugs instead of alcohol. Implied consent also applies to a DUI on a boat: That means if you’re driving a boat on any body of water, you’ve automatically consented to taking a breath or blood test. You can refuse, but you could face harsher punishment down the line.

What’s the Punishment for a DUI on a Boat?

A DUI on a boat in Oklahoma is a misdemeanor and is punishable by:

  • A fine of no more than $1,000 for the first offense
  • A fine of no more than $2,500 for each additional offense

While more than a dozen states have laws that suspend roadway driving privileges if you’re found guilty of a BUI, Oklahoma does not. A 2015 bill that would have imposed stricter penalties for BUI, including license suspension, didn’t pass, and currently, this charge won’t affect your license or your driving record.

The Bottom Line

The answer to “Can you get a DUI on a boat?” is yes in most states, including Oklahoma. And while the penalties for BUI aren’t as harsh as they are for a DUI, it still isn’t something you want on your record. A lawyer can help you protect your rights. Contact the Tulsa DUI Guy today for expert advice on how to handle your BUI.