Is it Legal to Have Alcohol on a Boat in New Hampshire?
Having alcohol and open containers on your boat can seem like somewhat of a mystery. It is a NH boating law that is not well known, somewhat hidden for obvious reasons.
NH BWI Laws Are Strict, Be Sure to Read This Entire Article!
NH Boating Laws about having alcohol on a boat:
In general, New Hampshire state boating laws DO allow alcoholic beverages and open containers to be aboard a boat, and passengers to be drinking alcoholic beverages on a boat in New Hampshire at the time this article was written. With that said let me state the obvious: it’s not a good idea to have alcohol on a boat, as the driver of the boat will be suspected of being intoxicated as soon as Marine Patrol sees it. Also, intoxicated passengers can become unstable and fall overboard. Being intoxicated doesn’t make swimming easy and a passenger can easily drown. If NH Marine Patrol sees you have alcohol on your private boat and people are drinking, you can be certain that the captain of that vessel will be getting a BWI test. When you get a BWI test from Marine Patrol, they know that the effects of alcohol are magnified by being in the sun and on a rocky, moving boat. These things contribute to further impairment.
The Boating While Intoxicated law in New Hampshire is very firm, more so than the Driving While Intoxicated laws in New Hampshire. By boating in New Hampshire, you automatically consent to a sobriety test, refusal to take this test is actually another offense altogether and can be used as evidence against you.
Like NH’s DWI laws, if your blood alcohol concentration is .08% or greater you are considered to be under the influence of alcohol. If your blood alcohol concentration is greater than .03%, but less than .08% combined with other evidence, this can be used to determine that you are under the influence of alcohol in the State of New Hampshire. Boating while intoxicated will get you arrested for DWI (BUI), your boating permit revoked for at least one year, it will go on your NH motor vehicle driving record and you can also lose your license to operate a motor vehicle for between 9 months and 2 years. Your auto insurance premiums will increase significantly. And don’t forget about the fine and humiliation of being taken from your boat, placed in handcuffs, put in the back of a cruiser, taken to the police station, fingerprinted, mugshot photos taken, sitting in a cell, getting bailed out, hiring a NH DWI attorney/NH BWI lawyer, appearing in court and possibly being charged with DUI and getting your name listed in the local NH newspapers/social media which could lead to further personal issues.
And if that’s not enough… Keep in mind that if you have a minor under the age of 16 in your boat at the time, you will also be required to stay at a sobriety house for 7 days at your expense. That means a loss of income, time off from work, not being at home for your family and even further humiliation. If you cause the death of another person, you can be also charged with murder in a New Hampshire court. So plan your “Booze Cruise” around safety and make sure no one under the influence is driving the boat.
Passenger Safety While Drinking Alcohol in a Boat:
If passengers in your boat are drinking, or are already intoxicated, ask them to wear a life jacket. Make it a rule (rules made well ahead of time is easier) that if people are drinking or are intoxicated, that they must wear a life jacket. You can make it a fun event by decorating life jackets, take their picture with the funny life jacket on. There are ways to make it fun, while really keeping your friends and family safe. You wouldn’t let them drive a car drunk and you wouldn’t let them stand on the side of a cliff drunk, so don’t let them get in your boat drunk without a life jacket on!
50% of all boating accidents are a result of Boating While Intoxicated
Having alcohol in a boat in New Hampshire is legal and also a privilege (not many of those left these days), so help keep it legal by being responsible and protecting those in your boat. According to the US Coast Guard, the primary known contributing factor for boater deaths is alcohol use. Every injury, accident, arrest and death will contribute to the laws changing. Let your passengers drink and if you would like to drink, be sure you have a sober licensed boater become the designated driver.
Alcohol and Open Containers in Your Boat: Current Law
While it is currently legal to have alcohol on your boat in New Hampshire (when this article was written), always be sure to check for any current updates to these laws or recommended safety precautions. Also check to see if drinking alcohol or having an open-container in public is legal in your town or city!
Please boat safely!
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