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Boating Under the Influence in New Hampshire


There are many possible dangers to operating a boat under the influence of impairing substances.  The New Hampshire legislature has taken notice of this, and made the operation of a boat under the influence a violation of the law under § 265-A:2(II).  To be convicted of a violation of this statute, an individual must (1) operate or attempt to operate a boat (2) under the influence of intoxicating liquor or controlled drug, or any combination of the two, or; while such person has a BAC of 0.08% or more, or; if the person is under the age or 21, a BAC of 0.02% or more.

It is important to realize that the term “operate,” when related to boats, is defined in § 265-A:1 of the Revised Statutes  and means to “drive, paddle, row, or exercise control over any boat unless the boat is at anchor, docked, made fast, or moored.”  This definition of operate is incredibly broad, and leaves officers with wide discretion when dealing with those who are boating and have been using impairing substances.  Many officers will be more lenient towards boaters, especially pertaining to those consuming alcohol.  Boating under the influence charges most often occur when drivers are noticeably impaired when in contact with officers or when they operate their boat erratically or dangerously.


Boating under the influence presents unique issues and dangers that driving motor vehicles does not.  First, while boating under the influence still endangers others, the danger is not as great as those who operate or drive motor vehicles on highways while they are impaired.  Highways are much more crowded than waterways, and careful operators of other vessels can generally steer clear of those who operate under the influence.  However, no matter how watchful boaters are they are still in danger when others operate boats under the influence.  Many people feel much safer on the water, and to some extent, let their guard down and increase the chances they will be involved in an accident, whether it be with another boater, a river bank, or other obstacle that may be lurking in the water.  Second, the effects of impairing substances are often much greater when boating.  The sun, wind, motion of the boat, high temperatures, and other factors that are generally associated with boating often increase the effect of impairing substances on an individual’s mental and physical capabilities.  Due to this fact, people may overestimate their ability to safely operate, thus increasing the danger to themselves, their passengers, and other boaters.  Finally, the fact that boating takes place on New Hampshire’s waterways adds the danger of drowning.  Boaters under the influence are more likely to fall overboard or overestimate their swimming abilities.  Also, those under the influence may not be watchful of those who boating with them and not realize if another on the boat has fallen overboard or having trouble swimming.    Though these are not the only unique issues for boaters, they are important, and understanding the dangers that are present when boating under the influence will help boaters better protect themselves and decrease the chance of violating the law.

Penalties for Boating Under the Influence

The penalties for boating under the influence can be found at NH Rev. Stat. §265-A:19(I).  These penalties are in addition to the penalties proscribed for a DUI under § 265-A:18.

When an individual is convicted of a violation of §265-A:2(II) (boating under the influence), will automatically be prohibited from operating a boat on the waters of New Hampshire.  This baseline penalty is imposed regardless of whether the conviction is appealed and starts on the date of the conviction.  Any convicted individual operating a boat during this period will be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Under § 265-A:19(II) the penalty is increased when the violation occurs and someone under the age of 16 is being transported on the boat.  If this happens, not only will boating privileges be suspended for one year, but they will not be reinstated until the individual who was convicted “has successfully completed a 7-day program at the multiple DWI offender program or an equivalent 7-day residential intervention program approved by the department of health and human services at the person’s own expense.”   If a person operates a boat within one year or before completion of the required program, they will be guilty of a misdemeanor. A violation of § 265-A:19(II) is viewed the same as a conviction of an aggravated DUI under § 265-A:3, and the individual will also be subject to the penalties imposed for a violation of that section.

Furthermore, if an individual is convicted of boating under the influence, the violation will be reported to commissioner of the department of safety, division of motor vehicles, and will become a part of the motor vehicle driving record of the person convicted.

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