Boating While Intoxicated charges in New Hampshire carry the same harsh penalties that Driving While Intoxicated charges carry. It is therefore just as important to aggressively challenge a boating under the influence charge against as it is a driving under the influence charge. Furthermore, New Hampshire’s implied consent law applies with equal force to BWI charges as it does to the more common DUI charges.

Boating while intoxicated cases that arise from serious boating accidents cause headlines in the news; they represent, however, only a small fraction of boating under the influence charges in New Hampshire. If you are facing these charges, get in touch with a New Hampshire boating while intoxicated lawyer right away. A skilled defense attorney can help protect your rights.

Boating Accidents

Most boating misdemeanor charges begin with an unwanted encounter with New Hampshire’s Marine Patrol, now a division of the New Hampshire State Police. The initial purpose of a stop in BWI cases is often a real or perceived minor rule infraction, such as “no wake zone” violations, lighting violations, and other petty violations. It is a good idea to practice retrieving these seldom used items so that someone can perform these tasks more easily when under the pressure of a stop by the marine patrol.

On larger lakes and public bodies of water such as Lake Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam Lake, Lake Sunapee and Squam Lake, the New Hampshire Marine Patrol conducts regular patrols. In New Hampshire the Marine Patrol will nearly always ask the boat operator to comply with a “safety inspection” upon stopping a recreational boat: the boat operator will be asked to show the marine patrol officers a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device for each occupant on the vessel, paddles, a fire extinguisher, and a long list of other things. This “safety inspection” is often the first or second step down a slippery slope toward a New Hampshire boating while intoxicated arrest.

BWI Arrests

Like automobile drivers, boat operators in New Hampshire may be convicted of operating a boat under the influence if the prosecution can prove beyond a reasonable doubt either that the boat operator was impaired by alcohol or drugs, or a combination of both, or if the operator submits to a breath or blood test that reveals a blood or breath alcohol concentration of .08 or more, or .02 or more if the operator is under the age of 21.

A boating while intoxicated arrest in New Hampshire is every bit as serious a matter as a DUI charge. These cases require prompt, experienced and intelligent attention. An experienced New Hampshire defense lawyer will know the correct steps to take to attempt to secure the best possible outcome for them, so establishing a relationship with a knowledgeable attorney should be the first step for someone facing a New Hampshire boating under the influence charge. The marine “float battery” of field sobriety tests are unique; they are quite different from the roadside gymnastics automobile operators are asked to perform during roadside encounters with law enforcement officers at the roadside.

Elements of a BWI Offense

New Hampshire statutes prohibit any operator from operating a vessel while under the influence of an intoxicating liquor or controlled substance or combination thereof that impairs the ability to operate or when the driver’s BAC has reached a certain level. (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §265-A:2). If a police officer suspects impaired boating on a public waterway (which is practically any body of water large enough to put a boat into in New Hampshire), the vessel’s operator will be asked to undergo a series of tests such as:

  • Physical coordination and finger dexterity exercises
  • Counting backwards
  • Reciting tricky parts of the alphabet
  • Breath testing
  • Blood testing

Since vessel operators, like drivers of motor vehicles, are considered to have impliedly consented to post-arrest chemical and/or field sobriety testing, a refusal to undergo testing, or testing over the statutorily prescribed “limit” will trigger a suspension request that can strip a person of their right to drive a motor vehicle. That administrative license suspension request by law enforcement must be defended promptly by a lawyer experienced in New Hampshire administrative license suspension hearings.


The penalties imposed for conviction of boating while intoxicated under New Hampshire DWI laws mirror the penalties for a New Hampshire DWI conviction on a public highway. They vary depending on the circumstances and the driver’s prior record. A first-time conviction carries a penalty of a fine of at least $500, revocation of driving privileges for at least nine months, completion of an Impaired Driver Care Management Program (“IDCMP”) and maintenance of an SR-22.

The penalties increase if the driver is found guilty of an “aggravated BWI conviction,” making it even more important that a New Hampshire DWI attorney is contacted. Circumstances that can aggravate a DWI include:

  • Operating while a child under the age of 16 is in the vessel
  • Driving with a BAC of .16 or more

Aggravated boating under the influence penalties include mandatory jail time, higher fines, longer driver’s license revocation, and further IDCMP after-care requirements. Subsequent convictions within a 10-year period also increase the penalties and result in mandatory jail time.

How a New Hampshire Lawyer Experienced in Boating Charges Can Help

If you are facing a boating while intoxicated or other boating misdemeanor or violation charges, contact a New Hampshire defense lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced New Hampshire defense attorney familiar with New Hampshire boating laws can explore the best defensive strategy to employ and when a lesser offense may apply. Time is of the essence.