Legislation proposes stiffer penalties for boating under the influence

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The state House and a state Senate Committee passed a measure that could make it so those caught boating under the influence would face penalties similar to those for a DUI, especially when there’s a minor on board.

“Right now if you’re in a car, and you get a DUI with a person under the age of 18, there’s a certain set of penalties that apply. The same thing will happen now with a BUI,” said Mike Nerozzi, Director of Policy and Planning, with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

If House Bill 1185 passes, if you have a minor on board your boat, the first BUI offense would be a minimum fine of $1,000 with 100 hours of community service. The second offense would be a fine of at least $2,500 and one to six months of jail time. A third offense would be six months to two years in jail. The legislation also affects ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition) which helps first-time offenders who have no prior criminal convictions face less penalties.

“In the Commonwealth right now, you could get a DUI in your car and as a first time offender be eligible for the ARD program. You could turn around the very next day, get a BUI on your boat and be eligible for ARD again,” said Nerozzi.

That would no longer be the case. According to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, over the last five years, between 20 and 25% of all boating deaths in the state have been drug or alcohol-related.

“There’s a lot of factors when you’re out on a boat. It’s hot, you could be dehydrated, there’s wind, there’s noise that can sort of create a disorienting feeling,” said Nerozzi.

The legislation is currently in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Like a DUI, the legal limit for a BUI is a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or higher.

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