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Boating Under the Influence

Tennessee boating under the Influence laws or BUI is defined under Tennessee Code Annotated Section 69-9-217.

  • Under Tennessee law, you can be charged with boating under the influence if you are operating a vessel that is subject to registration.

  • Vessel is defined as every type of watercraft on the water that is used or capable of being used as a means of transportation.  This obviously covers motorboats and jet skis.  This could also include a sailboat.  A kayak or inflatable raft would not be included because they are not subject to registration.

Penalties for violating Tennessee’s BUI laws include:

  • BUI 1st offense is a class A misdemeanor which includes up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and loss of boating privileges for 1 year.  There is not mandatory jail time.  Fines range from $250 to $2500.

  • BUI 2nd is also a class A misdemeanor which includes up to 11 months and 29 days in jail but does not carry any mandatory jail time.  There is a loss of boating privileges for 2 years and fines ranging from $500 to $2500.

  • BUI 3rd is again a class A misdemeanor which includes up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and includes a 30 day minimum jail sentence.  This is mandatory jail time in custody.  There is a loss of boating privileges for a period of 3 years and fines ranging from $1000 to $5000.

Blood Alcohol Content in Tennessee BUI cases

  • .08 is the per see legal limit under Tennessee’s boating under the influence laws

  • Less than .05 BAC does not create a presumption of intoxication.

  • The statute does not address blood alcohol content between these two parameters.  I assume this area is fair game for common law or appearance and demeanor BUI cases.  Here, the prosecution will argue that you are under the influence based upon the observations of the arresting officer.

Implied Consent in Tennessee boating cases provides for the loss of boating privileges for a period of six months if you are found to have violated Tennessee’s boating implied consent statute.  This provision is found in Tennessee Code Annotated Section 69-9-217 (f) (2).

Reckless Boating as a substitute charge for boating under the influence should be considered as a plea option.  This plea should be considered because it is only a class C misdemeanor and does not carry a loss of boating privileges.  Reckless boating is found under Tennessee Code Annotated Section 69-9-216.

Judicial diversion should also be considered as a plea option in Tennessee BUI cases.  Under Tennessee Code Annotated Section 40-35-313, a conditional guilty plea is entered and the subject is eligible to have their record expunged after the successful completion of probation.  This is allows the subject to later have their record cleared or expunged of all charges.

What rights do the wildlife officers have to board your boat?  Tennessee Code Annotated Section 69-9-220 (a) allows wildlife officers the authority to stop and board any vessel.  However, that authority is limited under Tennessee Code Annotated Section 69-9-220 (d).  That section limits the wildlife officer’s ability to board a vessel for inspection purposes only.  They can only board a vessel to inspect the vessel for safety.  They cannot board for any arbitrary reason unrelated to the safety of the vessel.

Tennessee boating under the influence charges should not be taken lightly.  Although most first time offenders can avoid mandatory jail time, this is clearly a criminal offense that could negatively affect your permanent record as well as your boating privileges.  Never take a criminal charge just because you want to get the case over with.  If you need help with a Tennessee Boating under influence charge, give Lee Martin a call at 615-345-1988.  He has over 17 years of experience and knows how to get results in Tennessee BUI cases.

I help good people restore their lives

-Lee Martin is a Nashville criminal defense lawyer who has gained national recognition as a DUI and criminal defense attorney.  With over a decade of experience, he knows how to get results in criminal defense cases.  If you are seeking an experienced criminal defense attorney, use his experiences to your advantage.  If you need help with a pending boating under the influence charge, give him a call at 615-345-1988.

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