Kentucky Says No to Boating and Drinking

Posted August 15th, 2017, by Dan Carman

Summertime in Kentucky is a time to relax. In a state that boasts the greatest length of navigable waterways in the continental United States and the two largest man-made lakes east of the Mississippi River, it’s common that summertime includes spending weekends and vacations out on the water. However, as the rivers and lakes become more crowded, the danger of injury in a boating accident increases.

Crowded Waterways

Kentucky has more than 174,218 registered boats – not counting kayaks, canoes and other non-motorized boats not required to register. This adds up to roughly 1.5 percent of all boats registered nationwide. Additionally, 35.6 percent of Kentucky tourism occurs in summer – not counting the Kentucky Derby and holidays – and a solid percentage of visitors take advantage of the rivers and lakes, bringing their own boats and adding additional numbers to the watercraft already on the water.

Along with more people comes more responsibility; just like on dry land, law enforcement checks to make sure everyone is following the rules. One of those rules involves drinking. Specific laws govern the amount of alcohol an individual can legally drink while boating, and if someone goes over, there are penalties.

Kentucky Law

The laws for abusing alcohol while boating are very similar to the same laws about driving. Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) laws in Kentucky state that it is illegal for a boat operator to have a blood alcohol level higher than .08 percent. The laws extend to more than boats – it’s also illegal to engage in water activities while intoxicated.

The reasons are fairly simple. Alcohol impairs judgment and coordination, and while dry land is often not very forgiving, a mistake in the water can be deadly. For example, falling off a bicycle hurts, most times, and even if the person loses consciousness they have a chance to recover. That’s not true when the unconscious person is in the water — they’re likely to be a drowning victim.

What’s more, Kentucky law, specifically KRS 222.202 states it is illegal to drink on the water at all. It is illegal in Kentucky to drink in public spaces, and the waterways are considered public spaces. The law, in some circumstances, is even stricter than on land, in that anyone seen with alcohol, drunk or drinking may be cited or arrested.


Penalties are fairly severe for individuals drinking and boating. If found guilty, the first offense includes a $200-$250 fine; the second offense is a fine of $350-$500; and for the third offense, the person operating the boat is fined $600-$1,000 and/or imprisoned for a minimum of 30 days.

Also, under Kentucky law the boat operator has given implied consent to be tested for his sobriety. Failure to consent to testing may result in even stiffer penalties.

With a network of offices located throughout the state, Dan Carman and Attorneys of Kentucky will make sure that your rights are protected. Whether you are facing charges, suspect you might be charged in the future or have already been found guilty of drinking while boating or any other charges involving alcohol and the waterways, Dan Carman and Attorneys can help you. Attorney Dan Carman has served in the United States Marine Corps as defense counsel, prosecutor, legal assistance attorney, and in-house counsel for an infantry battalion, and he and his attorneys have the knowledge, experience and resources to help. For answers to your questions or to set up an appointment, contact us online or call 1.844.593.3336.

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