California Boating Laws
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed November 26, 2019
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Last updated 11/18/2019
California has beautiful coastlines, lakes, and waterways. When you take to the state's waterways there are important rules that regulate the registration of watercraft, the requirements to operate watercraft, alcohol use by operators, and the responsibilities of those involved in an accident. The following article will help ensure that you and your craft are shipshape and in compliance with California boating laws.
Vessel Titling and Registration
Any sail-powered vessel over eight feet in length and every motor-driven vessel used in the waters of California must be registered with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Details regarding registration are found in the chart below.
California was one of the last states to enact a boater-safety education course requirement into law. A law requiring the development and implementation of a vessel operator card was passed and took effect in 2018. The requirements under these new regulations are discussed in the chart below.
Boating and Alcohol
Boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs (BUI) is prohibited by California law. The chart below contains information about alcohol possession, intoxication, and other issues relating to alcohol and California boating laws.
California Boating Laws: The Basics
|Age & Education Requirements||
California boating laws prohibit anyone under the age of 16 from operating a motorboat of more than 15 horsepower (hp). Those under the age of 16 may still operate:
California's new law regarding vessel operation requires that all power boaters under the age of 25 complete a state-approved course by January 1, 2019. By 2025, all boaters will be required to have completed such a course.
In addition to the boater-safety course requirement, California boating laws require boaters born after January 1, 1998, and operating a boat with a 10hp or greater engine to obtain a boating safety certificate.
|Boating Under the Influence||
Operators of vessels involved in an accident also have many of the same obligations held by motorists involved in accidents, including the obligation to stay, render assistance, and to provide information to those injured or whose property was damaged.
A boating accident must be reported to the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways under some circumstances. Accidents must be reported if they involved:
A report must be filed within 48 hours of an accident involving:
A report must be filed within 10 days of an accident involving:
Where an accident resulted in the death or disappearance of a person, the vessel operator is also required to inform the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction or the sheriff, unless a peace officer was at the scene of the accident already.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Research the Law
Find Out More About California Boating Laws
Whether you are fishing in Lake Tahoe or sailing the Monterey Bay you will need to know your legal responsibilities. If you have been involved in a boating accident, accused of boating under the influence, or have other concerns relating to California boating laws a lawyer's assistance can help answer questions and reduce your risk. Consult with a California boating laws attorney to learn more about California laws and your situation.
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