Boating and Alcohol: The Laws
It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances, drugs or any combination thereof.
In Virginia, 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 under the age of 21 and have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.02% or higher, or are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs which have impaired their ability to operate the vessel safely
In Virginia, a person who is convicted of operating a boat while under the influence will be subject to the following penalties:
- A fine of up to $2,500.
- Up to 12 months imprisonment.
- The loss of the privilege to operate a boat for 12 months (upon a first conviction, or 3 years upon a second or later conviction).
- The requirement to attend an Alcohol Safety Action Program.
Any person operating a boat on Virginia waters is deemed to have given consent to a breath and/or blood test to determine if they are impaired by drugs and/or alcohol. Refusal to submit to testing can result in the revocation of the privilege to operate on the waters of the Commonwealth.
Virginia’s Law Enforcement Authority
Boating laws in Virginia are enforced by:
- Conservation Police Officers employed by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
- The Coast Guard on federal waters.
Officers have full power and authority to stop and board boats at any time to check for proper registration and required safety equipment.