Tennesseans love the water. It is important for Tennessee residents and visitors to know that it is illegal for any person to operate any vessel subject to registration, while on the public waters of the state, and while under the influence of any intoxicant or with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or greater. Going to the lake is a time to relax and unwind with friends. It is also the time of year when Tennessee Wildlife Resource Officers are on the lookout for boaters who are under the influence. Around Nashville, there are several lakes and public waters, including Old Hickory Lake, Percy Priest Lake, Cheatham Dam and the Cumberland River. Vessels include every type of watercraft used or being capable of being used as a means of transportation on the water, and are not required to be motorized. Yes, you can get a boating under the influence charge (BUI) in a rowboat or canoe.
Tennessee BUI Laws
The laws for BUI are similar to those of DUI, including an implied consent for tests to determine the alcohol or drug content of the person's blood, and a presumed violation at blood alcohol content of .08 percent or greater. A violation of the BUI implied consent law results in a mandatory six-month suspension of operating privileges; however, it is not considered a criminal offense. The BUI law also does not apply when the vessel is moored or anchored.
The United States Coast Guard reports that the sun, wind, motion, engine noise and vibration cause fatigue which accelerates the effect of alcohol, drugs and even prescription medications, decreasing coordination, judgment and reaction time even faster than if the person were on land. Lack of experience on the part of most recreational boaters also increases the risk of alcohol-related accidents. Most recreational boaters have operating experience equal to that of teenage drivers on state highways. The Coast Guard estimates that over one-third of all boating fatalities involved the use of alcohol. Any boating accident involving serious injury or death requires police to obtain blood samples from all operators and submit the results to the local District Attorney.
A first-offense BUI is a Class A misdemeanor, subject to a fine between $250 and $2,500, imprisonment up to 11 months 29 days, suspension of the privilege to operate a vessel for up to one year, mandatory participation in an alcohol safety BUI school, community service and payment of restitution for physical injuries or personal losses. Second offenses are subject to a fine between $500 and $2,500, imprisonment up to 11 months 29 days, mandatory suspension of the privilege to operate a vessel for a two-year period, community service and mandatory rehabilitation in an alcohol treatment facility. All first and second offenses are eligible for immediate probation, as well as pretrial diversion programs.
Third offenses are subject to a fine between $1,000 and $5,000, require at least 30 days of confinement, mandatory suspension of the privilege to operate a vessel for a minimum of three years up to 10 years, community service and mandatory rehabilitation in an alcohol treatment facility. Third and subsequent offenders must serve the mandatory minimum 30 days confinement before they are eligible for any probation.
So this summer, enjoy your day at the lake, but remember that Boating Under the Influence is just as serious as DUI and the consequences can be far more dangerous.
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Contact us by calling 615-686-2115 if you have any questions regarding Tennessee Boating Under the Influence charges.