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It's the Law

Alcohol and Drugs

New Hampshire law prohibits anyone from boating while intoxicated (BWI)—that is, operating any vessel (including vessels propelled by a motor or sail, canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards) while under the influence of alcohol, controlled drugs, or any combination of alcohol and controlled drugs.

The following conditions determine if you are boating under the influence.

  • If your blood alcohol concentration is 0.08% or greater by weight of alcohol as determined by a breath, blood, or urine test, you are considered to be under the influence of alcohol.
  • If your blood alcohol concentration is greater than 0.03% but less than 0.08% by weight of alcohol as determined by a breath, blood, or urine test, that fact along with other evidence can be used to determine if you are under the influence.

New Hampshire law establishes the following penalties.

  • Persons convicted of boating under the influence will:
    • Lose the privilege to operate a vessel for at least one year.
    • Have the BWI conviction become part of their motor vehicle driving record.
    • Receive a fine.
    • Have their driver’s license or privilege to drive a motor vehicle revoked for not less than nine months, not to exceed two years.
  • If convicted of boating under the influence while transporting a person under 16 years of age, the operator must complete a seven-day residential intervention program at their own expense, in addition to the penalties above.
  • Any person convicted of a subsequent offense—BWI or DWI—faces enhanced penalties.
  • If a person boating under the influence causes the death of another person, he or she may be charged with a felony.

By operating a vessel on New Hampshire waters, you have consented to a sobriety test if requested by a law enforcement officer. Refusal to be tested is a separate offense and may be offered as evidence in a civil or criminal action.

Just remember this simple rule: Don’t Drink and Boat!

Why drinking and boating can be lethal…

The effect of alcohol is increased by the natural stressors (wind, sun, vibration) placed on your body while boating. Also, the dehydration of your body from the natural stressors causes alcohol to be absorbed into your system more quickly. Research has proven that one-third of the amount of alcohol that it takes to make a person legally intoxicated on land can make a boater equally intoxicated on the water.

Alcohol depresses the central nervous system, affecting judgment and slowing reaction time. Most people become slightly intoxicated after only one drink. Alcohol also makes it difficult for you to pay attention, especially to multiple tasks. For example, it will be more difficult for you to keep track of two or more vessels operating in your area. This could become critical if you are placed in an emergency situation and must make a sudden decision.