Other Drug and Alcohol Offenses

Boating While Under the Influence

1. What is constitutes boating while under the influence (BWI)?

As the population grows in New Jersey more and more citizens use the rivers, bays and oceans each weekend for recreational boating activities. The huge number of sailboats, powered vessels, personal watercraft, and part fishing boats that can be seen at the seashore and on the lakes during each summer is a good indication of the popularity of leisure boating in New Jersey. Of course, with so many people operating so many vessels, the potential for accidents resulting in property damage, personal injury or death is great. This risk of a catastrophe is even more enhanced when the operator of the vessel in under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The New Jersey State Police and the United States Coast Guard are the two law enforcement units charged with the responsibility of patrolling New Jersey’s waterways for DWI or boating under the influence. The law that governs boating under the influence is N.J.S.A. 12:7-4. This law is in many respects similar to the law banning DWI.

If a person is convicted of boating under the influence (BWI), then the person must lose both their boating and driving privileges. The length of suspension of driving privileges tracks the suspension periods set forth in the latest version off N.J.S.A. 39:4-50. Moreover, a refusal to submit to a breath test will also result in a period of suspension of both boating and driving privileges. The 10-year step-down provision, IDRC requirements and the like remain unchanged. In addition, there are no school zone penalties or surcharges associated with this violation.

In summary, the most important consequence of a boating under the influence charge, is that if a person is convicted, then he also must have their driver’s license suspended. The length of the suspension is determined by whether the person was convicted with a BAC of .08% up to .10%, or with a BAC of .10% or higher. Moreover, a boating under the influence conviction will also count as a prior if a person is subsequently charged with additional DWI offenses.

2. What is the legal definition of boating while under the influence?

Boating under the influence is defined as operating a vessel on any waterway including the Ocean, lakes, rivers, inlets, lagoons, streams, canals while:

* having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent for a recreational water vessel

* having a BAC of .04 percent for a commercial vessel

* having a BAC of .01 for aquaplanes and water skis being  under the influence of drugs

* refusing a breath test

3. What are the penalties for boating while under the influence?

Boating while Intoxicated cases are heard in Municipal Courts just like a DWI case is. Even though a BWI is not considered to be a criminal case, there are still many severe penalties and fines.



Jail Sentence Driving License Suspension Boating License Suspension Fines Surcharges
1st Offense (BAC .08-.099%) up to 30 days 3 months 1 year $250-$400 $3,500+
1st Offense (BAC over .10%)1 up to 30 days 7 months -1 year 1 year $300-$500 $3,500+
2nd Offense 2-90 days 2 years 2 years $500-$1,000 $3,500+
3rd Offense 180 days 10 years 10 years $1,000 $5,000+


4. I was just busted for a boating while under the influence charge. How can I defense myself?

Boating under the influence cases are very different from DWI cases in many areas. The best opportunity you have to keep your driving/boating license and to avoid jail time, is to hire competent legal counsel. There are many procedures police are required to follow in a BWI case.

Attorney Theodore Sliwinski, Esq. has defended many boating while under the influence cases in New Jersey. He is fully knowledgeable of the procedural, constitutional, evidentiary, medical, scientific, and legal arguments  that must be made to give you the best defense available!