Boating and Alcohol: The Laws

It is illegal in the state of Tennessee to operate any sail or motorized boat while under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances, drugs or any combination thereof.

Boating and Alcohol

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

  • They have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level of .08 or higher.

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

  • On a first offense: A fine of up to $2,500.
  • On a second offense: A fine of up to $2,500.
  • On a third offense: A fine of $5,000.

Implied Consent

Any person operating a sail or motorized boat is deemed to have given consent to a breath and/or blood test to determine if they are impaired by drugs and/or alcohol. Failure to consent to testing is a separate offence and may result in the suspension of boat operating privileges.

State law requires that BAC levels be determined for all operators involved in an accident where death or serious injury occurs.

Tennessee’s Law Enforcement Authority

Every officer of the Agency has the authority to stop and board any boat subject to the State Boating Act. They may issue citations or, when necessary, they may arrest, on sight, without warrant, any person they see violating any provisions of the Act.

Most Agency boats may be recognized by the orange and green stripes near the bow and the words ‘WILDLIFE RESOURCES’ on the sides. However, unmarked boats are also used. Boaters who are signaled to stop must do so immediately and maneuver in such a way that the officer may come along side or come aboard.

TWRA officers monitor marine radio channel 17 and can also be contacted through the regional TWRA dispatcher at the toll-free number.