Boating under the Influence Charges, Penalties, & Defense in New Jersey

BWI Offenses in NJ are Punished Harshly. Our New Jersey BUI Defense Lawyers Aggressively Fight these Charges to Get them Dismissed and Help Clients Maintain their Licenses.

BWI Charges NJ Best Defense When summer finally arrives, boaters celebrate by hitting the open waters. Recreational boating is popular on New Jersey’s many waterways, and many social gatherings and outings revolve around the open air, picnicking, and spirits. And yet, just because the party is far from the land does not mean boaters can escape the law. A vehicle driver on the road or the water similarly obtains and loses the privilege to operate a water vessel on public waters or a motor vehicle on public roadways.

A DWI on the water is termed a BWI or BUI, boating while intoxicated or under the influence, and has nearly the same penalties as a DWI on land. Some punishments are worse since New Jersey implemented new penalties for typical driving while intoxicated offenses with DWI reforms. A BWI can result in life changes you do not want to experience. Be sure to get help after a drug or alcohol arrest on the water so you do not lose your boating and driving privileges. Our defense lawyers at The Tormey Law Firm have over 100 years of combined experience defending clients who have been charged with operating boats, vehicles, and vessels on New Jersey waterways and roadways across the state. We will meticulously review your case to find holes in the evidence and defense options that we can use to get the BUI or BWI charges dismissed. Do not hesitate to contact us at (201)-556-1570 for immediate assistance in a free consultation and learn more about the unique aspects, elements, and penalties of boating while intoxicated charges below.

How do You Get a Boating License in NJ?

To acquire the privilege of operating a powered water vessel, you must be minimally 16 years old with an adult (18 or over) on board. Additionally, you must complete a state-approved safety course to drive a motorized boat or other machine-powered water vessels. The lengthy written test covers boat operation, safety equipment, laws, road rules, and emergency procedures. All licensed boat operators have to learn that safe boat handling includes driving sober and that operating a boat while impaired is illegal.

Being Stopped on the Water for Boating while Intoxicated in NJ

Should the police or coast guard flash their lights and sound a siren to stop your boat, you must stop the boat and follow instructions. Further, you must allow the officer to board the vessel when commanded. Full cooperation and compliance are required, including providing a license, registration, and documents requested and answering questions. The officer may also check for safety compliance on board, including equipment and navigation safety. If the officer or agent suspects an impaired driver, they may ask you to perform field sobriety tests and a breathalyzer test to confirm intoxication. Once you are on land and at the police station or the hospital, depending on the situation, an officer may even seek to take further tests, such as blood and urine.

Elements to Prove BWI Charges in New Jersey

When tests support a finding of intoxication, you may face BWI charges. According to N.J.S.A. 12:7-46, operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal. A blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher is over the legal threshold and grounds for a BWI.  A conviction requires the prosecution to prove that the driver operated a vessel as that term is defined by law. They must also show that the driver drove the vessel in New Jersey waters and operated it while impaired by alcohol or drugs, such as narcotics, hallucinogens, or other illegal drugs. Once the prosecutor proves or establishes the three elements of the offense, a judge may convict you as the driver or the person in charge of the vessel that allowed the driver to operate the boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

How Long does the State Have to File a Complaint for Boating Under the Influence in NJ?

The state has only 90 days to file its BWI charges against you. After 90 days, the state is barred from charging the accused, according to N.J.S.A. 12:7-57.

12:7-46 Penalties for operating vessel under the influence in NJ

The consequences of operating a water vessel, defined as a power vessel or unpowered vessel 12 feet long or longer, or for refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test, is forfeited boating and driving licenses for three to 12 months for a first-time BWI and seven to 12 of both boat and driver’s licenses for a refusal. The penalties for a conviction increase when a person has a high BAC or is a repeat offender.

A boat driver with a BAC of .08% to .10% must pay a fine of $250.00 to $400.00 and lose their boat license for a year and motor vehicle driver’s license for three (3) months. They must also spend 12 hours in an intoxicated driver resource center (IDRC). However, a driver with a BAC of over 0.10% or with narcotics in their system faces a $300.00 to $500.00 fine, plus a water vessel license suspension for a year and a motor vehicle driver’s license for seven (7) months to one (1) year. They must also spend 48 hours in an IDRC.

Second-time offenders pay a fine of up to $1,000.00, perform community service for 30 days, and serve a jail term of two (2) to 90 days, plus the boat and motor vehicle license suspension of two (2) years. Lastly, for the third or more convictions, the fine is $1,000.00, a prison term of six months, with 90 days that can be served in a rehabilitation center, and a ten-year license suspension on the water and road. Additionally, they must spend 12 to 48 hours in an IDRC.

Moreover, a boat owner or other person charged with possessing the vessel can get in trouble for allowing someone else to operate a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Thus, a person authorized to drive the boat after drinking or taking habit-forming or hallucinogenic drugs will be arrested, and the owner or person with custody and control over the boat will be too.

Contact New Jersey BWI Attorneys for Immediate Assistance with Your Defense

New Jersey Boating DUI Defense Lawyers Since a BWI is expensive and potentially threatens your liberty in New Jersey, you should talk to a BWI defense lawyer when faced with an arrest and a BUI summons. Losing your boating and driver’s license is inconvenient and costly, especially if the police stop you on the road and you have a suspended license. You could go to jail and do community service, losing time from work or school. The consequences can cause a domino effect of additional costs and setbacks that are simply not worth the risk.

Our boating while intoxicated and under the influence defense lawyers will do everything in our power to win your case. With our experience and expansive knowledge of BWI law in NJ, we take numerous steps to find the best approach to defending your case. The first approach our BWI defense attorneys may take is challenging the charges by investigating the tests’ legitimacy. The Coast Guard does not need probable cause or reasonable suspicion of legal violations to stop you and board your vessel, even to check documents. So, the best tactic is to investigate the field sobriety and breathalyzer testing protocols. Otherwise, we may use an expert witness or skilled cross-examination to discredit the state’s witnesses and other strategies for casting doubt on the evidence against you.  If you have been charged with a BWI anywhere on the waters of New Jersey, contact our renowned defense firm to speak with an attorney immediately about your case. We can be reached 24/7 online or by calling (201)-556-1570 to provide you with a free consultation.


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With unmatched knowledge and experience in the practice of law, the seasoned attorneys at The Tormey Law Firm are committed to serving their clients and tenaciously confronting the allegations against them.

We will examine every facet of your case in order to defend your constitutional rights and reputation. With a dedicated legal advocate to assist you, our attorneys will ensure that you are never forced to navigate the complex legal process on your own.

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Learn More About How to Fight Your Charges

If you've been charged with a criminal offense, disorderly persons offense, or traffic / DWI violation, you have the right to an attorney who will defend you against your charges and fight for your best interests. To learn more about how your attorney can fight to have your charges dismissed or reduced, click a link below to see our video library of legal defenses and strategies.

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