Boating and Alcohol: The Laws

It is illegal in the state of Maryland to operate any boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or any combination thereof.

In Maryland, a person is considered to be under the influence if:

  • They have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level of 0.08 or higher.
  • They are impaired by alcohol, drugs or any combination thereof which prevents them from operating a boat safely.

Boating and Alcohol

In Maryland, a person convicted of operating a boat while under the influence will be subject to the following penalties:

  • Upon a first conviction, they will receive a fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment for up to 1 year, or both.
  • Upon a second conviction, they will receive a fine of up to $2,000, imprisonment for up to 2 years, or both.
  • Upon a third conviction, they will receive a fine of up to $3,000, imprisonment for up to 3 years, or both.

Implied Consent

Any person operating a boat on Maryland waters is deemed to have given consent to a test to determine if they are impaired by drugs or alcohol, if requested to do so by law enforcement. In addition to any other penalty, a court may prohibit a person from operating a boat for up to 1 year for refusing to submit to a chemical test or for having a blood alcohol content level of .08 or greater.

Maryland’s Law Enforcement Authority

Boating laws and regulations in Maryland are enforced by the Maryland Natural Resources Police. Patrol boats can be identified by the blue emergency light, the ‘POLICE’ identification on the side of the boat, and the uniformed officers on board.

Boaters are reminded that on the immediate approach of a Maryland Natural Resources Police patrol boat using a flashing blue light, the boat operator, unless otherwise directed by the officer, shall yield the right-of-way, stop the boat, and stay in that position until the Natural Resources Police boat has passed. Failure to stop and/or permit boarding or inspection may subject the operator or owner to a fine of up to $2,000. All boats, including those documented by the Coast Guard, are subject to Maryland’s rules and regulations.

The Coast Guard also has enforcement authority on federal waters.

Note: A boat does not have to be underway to be boarded or inspected. A boat may be boarded at dockside.