In Oregon, the act of operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or another intoxicating substance is called Boating Under Influence of Intoxicants, or BUII, also known as BUI (boating under the influence) in some other states. Committing a BUII involves operating the boat with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08 percent or above. This is the same BAC as for a DUII, or driving under the influence of intoxicants (known as DUI or driving under the influence in some other states). A BUII is a Class A misdemeanor that carries a penalty with a maximum of one year of jail time, five years' probation, a $6,250 fine and the potential loss of boating privileges for up to three years.
Additional Penalties for BUII
An individual may suffer a seizure or impoundment of their vessel by law enforcement officers and be required to pay storage charges. They may also be convicted of boating under the influence of an intoxicating substance and may not operate a boat for a period following the conviction. The individual is not eligible to apply for any certificate of title, registration or vessel numbering in Oregon for one year.
In Oregon, an individual is required to have a boater education card to operate a boat. An individual convicted of a BUII will see their Oregon boating safety education card suspended for between one and three years. The individual will also be required to complete a boating safety course. The agency with authority over boaters is the Oregon State Marine Board.
Does a BUII Count as a DUII?
A conviction for BUII is equal to, and counts toward any of, the first three convictions for driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII). Yet there is a significant difference. A boat operator charged with a BUII is not eligible for entry into a one-year DUII diversion program – there is no similar diversion program for BUII.
In a DUII diversion program, the defendant agrees to certain requirements, such as undergoing an alcohol and drug evaluation and completing any recommended treatment. They must also install an ignition interlock device (IID) on their motor vehicle, according to the Oregon Judicial Branch. If the defendant completes all the requirements of the program, the criminal charge for DUII is dismissed. A diversion goes on the individual’s driving record as a diversion, not a conviction.
Out-of-State BUII Conviction
Oregon will review an out-of-state conviction for BUII to determine whether the elements of the offense are similar to the elements of an Oregon BUII. If yes, a boat operator who commits a BUII in another state could have that BUII count as a prior DUII in Oregon. The out-of-state BUII may also impact the individual’s ability to get a boater education card, register a vessel and title the vessel in their name in Oregon.
Penalties for Test Refusal in Oregon
An individual who operates a boat on waters belonging to the state of Oregon is deemed to have given consent to field sobriety tests upon the request of a peace officer. This is true if the peace officer reasonably suspects the person has committed the offense of operating a boat while under the influence of intoxicants in violation of state law or a municipal ordinance, according to Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) Chapter 830.
If an individual refuses to consent to field sobriety tests, evidence of the person’s refusal or failure to physically submit to a test is admissible in a criminal or civil action, or a proceeding arising out of allegations related to their operation of the boat while under the influence. A person who refuses to physically submit to the test will not be eligible to apply for any certificate of title, registration or numbering for three years, and their boating safety education card will be suspended for three years.
What Waters Are Owned by the State of Oregon?
In Oregon, the waters that are owned by the state include rivers, lakes and territorial seas. According to the Oregon Department of State Lands, the term territorial sea means the waters and seabed extending three geographical miles toward the sea or out to the ocean. A number of waterways in Oregon have not had a navigability determination. This means ownership of them is unclear.
What Is a Boat Under Oregon Law?
A boat is defined as every type of watercraft, according to ORS Chapter 830. The definition also includes a seaplane on the water and not in flight. The definition of boat does not include boathouses, floating homes, air mattresses, beach and water toys or single inner tubes. The types of boats contemplated in the statute include motorized and nonmotorized boats, including speedboats, powerboats, fishing boats, sailboats, jet skis, Sea-Doos, inflatable boats, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards (SUPs), surfboards and inflatable rafts.
Boating Accidents in Oregon
Anyone involved in a boating accident is required to give the name and address of the boat operator and render aid to the injured person, according to the Oregon State Marine Board (OSMB). Parties involved in the accident also must provide transportation to a hospital if the treatment appears necessary or is requested by the injured person. Leaving the scene of a boat accident without performing these duties is a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $100,000 fine. A boat operator involved in an accident resulting in death, injury or property damage over $2,000 must report the accident to the OSMB.
The boat operator must report the accident on an OSMB accident report form within 48 hours of an accident resulting in a death or injury. The boat operator must report the accident within 10 days of an accident causing only property or equipment damage. Damage to a pier or dock is considered property damage. The occupants of the boat are responsible for making the accident report if the operator is physically incapable of doing so.
Unsafe Operation and Reckless Operation
A boat operator who is committing a BUII can also be charged with other, related offenses, such as unsafe operation or operating a boat in a manner that could endanger or likely to endanger a person or property. An example of unsafe operation is producing an extremely powerful wake that could overturn another vessel. The boat operator may also be charged with reckless operation, operation of a boat carelessly in willful disregard of others or reckless operation – speed. The last offense involves operating a boat traveling so quickly that it cannot be stopped by reasonable means in the clear distance ahead.
Boat Operator Norms
An operator is expected to operate a boat in such a manner so as to protect themselves, the occupants of the boat, occupants on other boats and people on structures like a dock or pier. A boat operator must maintain a proper lookout at all times while underway. They may not overload a boat beyond safe carrying capacity. To reduce noise, a boat operator should reduce speed while heading out or returning to shore. All of these rules are state regulations, and violations can incur penalties that are different from the penalties for a BUII.
Peculiarities of BUIIs
An individual who is guiding a boat that is adrift, but not actually being propelled, can be charged with a BUII. An owner of a boat who knowingly allows an intoxicated person to operate the vessel can be charged with a BUII. Two people who are intoxicated and jointly operating a boat can both be charged with BUII because both individuals are in actual physical control of the boat.
- Oregon State Marine Board: Boater Info
- Oregon State Marine Board: Statewide and Local Regulations
- Oregon Revised Statutes: Chapter 830 Small Watercraft
- Oregon Department of State Lands: Use of State-Owned Waterways
- Oregon Department of State Lands: Territorial Sea
- The Bend Bulletin: New Rules for Oregon Boaters in 2020
- Oregon Judicial Branch: DUII Diversion
- Oregon State Marine Board: Boater Education Cards
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.