Arizona Boating Laws for DUI


As the weather warms up across the state of Arizona, many locals will soon be taking their boats out of storage to prepare them for the sunny summer ahead. Fun on the lake often comes with alcohol, which, if not consumed safely, can lead to some dangerous waters on Arizona lakes.

If you are caught operating a motorized watercraft, which may include a boat, Waverunner, jet ski, SeaDoo, or other personal watercraft, while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Arizona, you may face charges for a boating DUI, or an OUI (operating under the influence).

Boating DUI Laws in Arizona

According to A.R.S. 5-395, it is illegal for any person to operate or be in actual physical control of a motorized watercraft that is being operated in Arizona under the following circumstances:

  1. While the operator is under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, or vapor releasing substance containing a toxic substance if the person is impaired to the slightest degree.
  2. If the operator has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher within two hours of operating or being in actual physical control of the watercraft and the alcohol was consumed either before or while operating the watercraft.
  3. While there is any drug defined in A.R.S. 13-3401 or its metabolite in the operator’s body.

Boating DUI Checkpoints in AZ

Local officials take great precautions to ensure Arizona’s waterways are safe as there are countless families and groups of friends participating in leisure activities like waterskiing, tubing, and wakeboarding during several months of the year.

Wardens from the Arizona Game and Fish Department, as well as officials from other agencies in Arizona, California, and Nevada, are patrolling AZ’s lakes heavily during the months of March through September and will conduct frequent saturation patrols and OUI checkpoints. It should be noted: officials from the AZ Game & Fish Department are licensed Arizona peace officers and have the same authority as police to cite, arrest, and investigate criminal behavior.

OUI checkpoints should be expected if you are enjoying the water during the busy months on AZ lakes like Lake Havasu, Bartlett Lake, Lake Pleasant, and Saguaro Lake.

Boating DUIs in AZ: Know Your Rights!

If you are pulled over at an OUI checkpoint, you may be asked to perform a field sobriety test while on your boat—when your boat is still on the water; not exactly steady ground. It is recommend that you refuse the field sobriety test and instead agree to a breathalyzer or blood test.

You also have the right to remain silent and request to speak with an attorney. You can ask to speak with a DUI lawyer prior to submitting to any tests, but only if it will not cause undue delay for obtaining your accurate breath or blood sample.

Penalties for OUI in AZ

The penalties and charges you might face if you are arrested for operating a watercraft while under the influence in Arizona depend upon your blood alcohol concentration at the time of your arrest. If your BAC registered between 0.08 and 0.15, you can expect the following penalties for a first offense:

  • Class 1 misdemeanor charge
  • Maximum six months in jail (can be suspended upon completion of alcohol screening program)
  • Fines totaling around $2,100.00

For a second offense, non-extreme, occurring within five years of your first offense:

  • Min 90 days in jail (60 can be suspended upon completion of alcohol screening program)
  • Fines totaling around $2,500.00
  • Class 1 misdemeanor charge

Penalties for a third offense occurring within five years of your first offense:

  • Min six months in jail
  • Alcohol screening classes
  • Fines totaling around $2,500.00
  • Possible felony charge

Extreme OUI in Arizona

If your blood alcohol content registers above a .15 within two hours of operating the watercraft, you may be charged with an extreme OUI. Similar to an extreme DUI committed in a motor vehicle, extreme OUIs come with harsher penalties than non-extreme OUIs. If you are convicted of an extreme OUI, you can expect to face the following penalties in AZ:

  • Min 30 days in jail (only 20 can be suspended)
  • Fines totaling around $2,500.00
  • Alcohol classes
  • Class 1 misdemeanor charge

Penalties for second extreme OUI offense occurring within five years of your first offense:

  • Min 120 days in jail (only 60 can be suspended)
  • Fines totaling around $2,500.00
  • Alcohol classes
  • Class 1 misdemeanor charge

Defending an OUI in Arizona

There are several tactics our defense attorneys can utilize to defend against boating DUI charges in Arizona.

No probable cause for arrest: if the officer had no probable cause to think that the person operating the watercraft was under the influence of alcohol, the arrest and charges may be invalidated. This may be a good defense if the field sobriety, blood, or breathalyzer test was improperly administered.

For example, if the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) was performed and the officer was not yet certified to give the test, its results will be inadmissible in court. Furthermore, if the breath test devices were not properly calibrated (within a 10% accuracy range every 31 days), or if the machine was not sent through a seven test Standard Quality Assurance Program (SQAP) every 90 days, the test results may be inadmissible in court.

No reasonable suspicion to stop: if you believe the officer stopped you due to preconceived notions relating to gender, race, religion, age, or sexual preference, this may be used as a defense in your case.

Other tactics may include:

-Illegal search and seizure.

-Miranda Rights violation.

-Forensic flaws in your case.

Arizona OUI Defense Attorney

If you were charged with an OUI in Arizona, the DUI defense lawyers at JacksonWhite can help. We have experience assisting clients across the state of AZ and will work tirelessly to see that your charges and penalties are reduced as much as possible, or dropped altogether.


Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 467-4370 to discuss your case today.

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