Reference Guide to State Boating Laws

The Reference Guide to State Boating Laws answers a number of questions related to recreational boating safety public law. Topics covered include boating education, operator age, water skiing, boat noise, numbering & titling, personal watercraft, boating under the influence, personal flotation devices and more.

The data in the guide was supplied by the states and collectively updated during 2007. Data can also be updated by boating law administrators (or designates) for the individual states.

The information is subject to change at any time and facts should be verified with the BLAs if there are any questions.

To access the data, click on the drop down menu below and select a topic area.

California

Question

Data

Commercial Vessels

Does your state/territory regulate commercial vessels on sole state waters?

Other, please specify

Other, please specify

Motorized vessel carrying passengers for hire

If you answered yes to the previous question, is your agency responsible for enforcing regulations on commercial vessels on sole state waters?

Other, please specify

Other, please specify

Local Law Enforcement agencies do the enforcement

If you answered "No" to the previous question, which state agency is responsible?

The Department licenses the operators but local law enforcement agencies does the day to day enforcement

White Water

Does your state regulate vessel operation in white water areas?

No

Other, please specify

Does your state regulate commercial white water operations?

No

Other, please specify

Search & Rescue

Does your agency have a dive team?

No

Other, please specify

What agency is responsible for Search and Rescue operations?

We have no centralized enforcement or SARs operations. Many counties have this responsibility, but some counties are served by volunteer S&R teams.

What agency is responsible for victim recovery?

Local law enforcement agencies-This responsibility lies with the county where the incident occurs.

Boating Education Requirements

Does your state require mandatory boating safety education for some segment of the population?

Yes

Who is required to complete a boating education course in your state?

State law allows courts to order any boat operator that is convicted of a moving violation. Violators must take and successfully complete course

Are only residents of your state required to complete a boating education course?

No

Other, please specify

Education Exemptions

Are non-residents exempt from having to take a boating education course in your state?

Other, please specify

Other, please specify

Not applicabe unless they are convicted of offense

Are U.S. Coast Guard licensed operators exempt from having to take a boating education course in your state?

Other, please specify

Other, please specify

N/A , exempt unless ordered by courts

Are any other persons exempt from having to take a boating education course in your state? Please list.

N/A. All persons are exempt unless ordered by courts

Exams and License/Certificate Issuance

Is issuance of a license/certificate dependant upon passing an exam in your state?

Yes

Other, please specify

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, what is the passing score in your state?

80%

Providers of Education Courses

State Agency

X

US Coast Guard Auxiliary

X

US Power Squadrons

X

Public School System

X

Private Company

X

Other, please specify

Some Boating Instruction Safety Centers

Minors, Powerboats Personal Watercraft

Does your state require an adult to be on board when a minor is operating a motor-powered vessel other than a PWC?

Yes

Other, please specify

Applies 12-15 y.o. operating vessel with +15 h.p.

Does your state require an adult to be on board when a minor is operating a PWC?

Yes

Other, please specify

See number 20 above

Minimum Ages for Education Certification

Does your state certify minor boaters?

Yes

Other, please specify

What is the minimum age someone can be certified in your state?

No minimum

Does your state have reciprocity for accepting out of state certification of minor boaters if the certification course meets NASBLA's Education Standards?

NA no state certification of minors is required in CA. Only age requirement as specied: + 16 no supervision; 12-15 requires supervision of operating vessel with +15 h.p.

Mandatory Boat Operator Licensing

Does your state require mandatory boat operator licensing?

No

Other, please specify

Minimum Ages for Non-PWC Vessels

Does your state set a minimum age requirement to operate a motor powered vessel other than a PWC?

Yes

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, please list the required age and any other details such as horsepower rating.

Must be 16 or older to operate a motorboat of 15 HP or greater if unsupervised. Those 12-15 years of age may operate under supervision of a person 18 or older who is on board.

Does your state set any minimum age requirements to operate a PWC?

Yes

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, please list the requirements.

Must be 16 or older to operate a motorboat of 15 HP or greater if unsupervised. Those 12-15 years of age may operate under supervision of a person 18 or older who is on board.

Minimum Ages for Non-Powered Vessels

Are there any minimum age requirements in your state to operate non-powered vessels such as sailboats, canoes or kayaks?

Yes

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, please list the requirements.

Sailboats over 30' in length, must be +16 y.o. A 12-15 y.o., must have adult supervision +18 y.o.

Education Reciprocity

Do you accept out-of-state boating education certificates in your state?

Other, please specify

Other, please specify

No required for vessel operation in CA

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, which type of certificates do you accept?

Does your state honor NASBLA-approved course reciprocity for non-residents?

Other, please specify

Other, please specify

All CA courses are NASBLA approved, Not required

Wallet-Sized Certificates

Does your state issue wallet size boating certificate cards?

No

Other, please specify

How long are education certificates/student wallet cards valid in your state?

No expiration date for boating education certificates. CA does not issue student wallet cards

Challenge Exams

Does your state allow students to take a challenge exam to meet your state boating education requirement?

Other, please specify

Other, please specify

CA does not have a state boating educ. requirement

Online Courses & Proctoring

Does your state have any laws in place which expressly prohibit online boating safety courses?

No

Other, please specify

Does your state require boating safety tests to be proctored?

No

Other, please specify

Water Skiing

Does your state require an observer to be present when pulling a skier?

Yes

Other, please specify

Does your state require a mirror to be present when pulling a skier?

No

Other, please specify

Does your state prohibit water skiing during any specific time of the day/night?

Yes

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, please describe the time(s) when skiing is prohibited.

Waterskiing is allowed between sunrise and sunset unless regulated by local ordinance

Water Skiing

Does your state require a skier to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD?

Yes

Are self-propelled skis allowed to be used in your state?

Yes

Does your state require the use of a skier down flag?

Yes

Describe any other water skiing restrictions in your state.

Other vessels must excercise caution when ski flag is exhibited

Motorboat Noise

Is there a maximum noise level for motorboats in your state?

Yes

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, please give the levels and standard used.

Vessels built on of after 1/1/93 88 dB(A) using SAE J2005 75 bB(A) using SAE J1970 86 dbA for engines manufactured before Janyary 1, 1976 84 dbA for engines manufactured on or after January 1, 1976 and before January 1, 1978 82 dbA for engines manugactured on or after January 1, 1978

Is there a factory muffling alteration law in your state?

Yes

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, what is the law?

No vessel may be sold in CA if it does not come equipped with a muffler or mufling system

Is boat noise governed by local ordinance in your state?

Yes

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, what is the local ordinance?

Local ordinace may be stricter than state levels, e.g., may prohibit motorized vessels or restrict areas of operation

Marine Sanitation Devices

Does your state prohibit Y-valve through-hull discharge in waters of state jurisdiction?

No

Other, please specify

Does your state require Y-valves to be locked/closed in waters of state jurisdiction?

Yes

Other, please specify

Marine Sanitation Devices

What are the penalties for misuse or failure to equip a vessel with a Marine Sanitation Device in your state?

Violation of the CA Health & Safety Code, Article 4 is a misdemeanor.

What are the penalties for illegal dumping/discharge of a Marine Sanitation Device in your state?

Violation of the CA Health & Safety Code, Article 4 is a misdemeanor.

Personal Watercraft Operation

Does your state require users to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD when operating a PWC?

Yes

Does your state require PWC rental operators to provide any instruction or education in PWC operation prior to use?

No

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, how much instruction is required?

An instructional video prepared by state is made available for groups, individulas and clubs, but not required by law

Does your state prohibit PWC operation at any specific times?

Yes

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, please list the times.

No operation after sunset or before sunrise

Personal Watercrafts and Skiers

Does your state allow PWCs to pull water skiers?

Yes

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, are there any restrictions?

There is no exemption from having an observer with a ski flag that must be available for use on board the vessel.

Personal Watercraft Restrictions

Is there a speed limit specific to PWCs other than slow/no wake zones in your state?

No

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, please list the speed limit.

Must observe all local speed orfinances and state speed laws

Is PWC operation restricted within any area or zone in your state?

Yes

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, please list the restricted area or zone.

Local agencies may restrict by time of day, special use areas, speed limits, and sanitation and pollution control

Are limitations imposed on wake jumping with PWCs in your state?

Yes

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, please describe the limitations.

No wake jumping within 100 feet of the another vessel creating the wake.

Is there a kill switch or safety lanyard requirement for PWCs in your state?

Yes

Life Jackets

Which persons in your state are required to wear a PFD and under what circumstances?

Age 12 and younger on vessels less than 26 ft in length or in enclosed cabin or tethered to the mast fo a sailboat . All water-skiers and PWC operators, unless competing in sanctioned races or exhibition

What are the penalties for violating PFD regulations in your state?

Violations are infractions, with fine of not nore than $150

Blood Alcohol Content

What is the BAC level at which a person is considered intoxicated in your state?

Recreational boat operators 0.08 BAC Minors under 21 y.o., 0.01 BAC Commercial operator 0.04 BAC

Does your state have a lower threshold for BAC for minor boaters?

Yes

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, what is the BAC level for minors?

0.01 BAC

Boating Under the Influence

Does a BUI conviction impact an offender's automobile driving privileges in any way in your state?

Yes

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, how are their privileges impacted?

Counts the same as a DUI copnviction with possible suspension ro revocation of operators drivers license

BUI Saturation Patrols & Checkpoints

Are BUI saturation patrols utilized in your state?

Yes

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, how are they used?

Local boating enforcement agencies combine forces to target a specific water. This applies to both interstate and intrastate waters.

Are BUI checkpoints utilized in your state?

Yes

If you answered "Yes" to the previous question, how are they used?

These may be utilized by local law enforcement agencies at their discretion

Alcohol Testing for BUI

Does your state allow blood tests to determine BAC or BUI?

Yes

Does your state allow breath tests to determine BAC or BUI?

Yes

Does your state allow urine tests to determine BAC or BUI?

Yes

Test Usage in Criminal Evidence

Blood

X

Breath

X

Urine

X

Field Sobriety Tests

Does your state require field sobriety tests to be conducted on shore?

No

Other, please specify

Can refusal of a test be used against a boater in criminal prosecution in your state?

Yes

Other, please specify

Do marine officers utilize random BUI inspections that include boarding the boat in your state?

No

Negligent Operation of a Vessel

Does your state allow officers to issue citations for negligent operation of a vessel?

Yes

Portable BUI Equipment

Does your state allow the use of hand held or portable BUI enforcement equipment?

Yes

Does your state allow the use of hand held or portable BUI enforcement equipment to be used for probable cause?

Yes

Does your state allow the use of hand held or portable BUI enforcement equipment to be used for evidentiary purposes?

Yes

What percentage of law enforcement officers have access to hand held or portable BUI enforcement equipment in your state?

All patrol units have access to hand held units

Probable Cause

Does state law require probable cause for marine officers to stop a vessel?

Yes

Other, please specify

Does state law require probable cause for marine officers to board a vessel?

Yes

Other, please specify

Towing Distressed Vessels

Do marine officers utilize random safety inspections that include boarding the boat in your state?

No

Other, please specify

Are marine officers allowed to tow vessels in distress in your state?

Other, please specify

Other, please specify

if no towing service available or there's danger

Are seaplanes "on the water" treated as vessels in your state?

Other, please specify

Other, please specify

For rules of the road, not equipment/registration

Liability Insurance

Does your state mandate liability insurance for boaters?

No

On-Water Pursuits

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on on-water pursuit?

No

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on interstate on-water pursuit?

Yes

Transporting Subjects, Accident Victims, Guests

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on transporting subjects?

No

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on transporting accident victims?

No

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on transporting guests?

No

Officer Safety

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on requiring officers to wear Coast Guard-approved PFDs?

No

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on skin care safety for officers?

No

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on hearing safety for officers?

No

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on back safety for officers?

No

Towing Distressed Vessels

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on towing distressed vehicles?

No

First Responders, First Aid, Good Samaritans, Search and Rescue

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on being a first responder at an accident?

No

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on the use of first aid?

No

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on the Good Samaritan law?

Yes

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on search and rescue?

No

Inter-agency Interacton

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on interaction with local agencies?

No

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on interaction with other state agencies?

No

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on interaction with federal agencies?

Yes

Investigation of Theft & Fraud

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on investigation of theft?

Yes

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on investigation of fraud?

Yes

Employment

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on outside employment?

No

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on substance abuse?

Yes

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on off-duty responsibilities?

No

Firearms

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on firearms training?

Yes

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on firearms training recertification?

Yes

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on in-service training?

Yes

Deadly Force

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on use of deadly force?

Volunteers

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on use of volunteers?

No

BUI Checkpoints

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on use of BUI checkpoints?

No

Patrol Time

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on on-water patrol time as a safety factor?

No

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on working a percentage of time on night patrol?

No

Carrying Emergency Equipment

Does your state have a written, formal marine law enforcement policy, operational procedure or executive order on carrying emergency equipment (loaner PFDs, throw lines, etc.)?

No