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New Jersey Boating Laws

Some folks might think the Jersey Shore is all gym, tan, laundry and little else, but if you've ever been out on Jersey's many waterways you know that what happens on the water can be a lot more interesting than what happens next to it. This article provides an overview of New Jersey's boating laws, including information about the registration of boats, licenses, boating under the influence, accidents, and more.

Vessel Titling and Registration

Any sail-powered vessel over 12 feet in length and every motor-driven vessel used in the waters of California must be registered with the New Jersey Department of Motor Vehicles. Details regarding registration and exceptions to this requirement are found in the chart below.

Boating Licenses

New Jersey requires both a boat license and a New Jersey Boat Safety Certificate to operate a power vessel or personal watercraft such as a jet ski or waverunner on the non-tidal waters of New Jersey. A license is not required for non-powered vessels. Licensing requirements are discussed in more detail in the chart below.

Boating and Alcohol

New Jersey has strict penalties for those who operate watercraft under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These may include fines, imprisonment, and the revocation of driving and boating privileges. More information regarding these rules can be found in the chart below.

New Jersey Boating Laws: The Basics

Code Sections
  • New Jersey Statutes, Title 12, Commerce and Navigation, Section 7-34.38 et. seq., Vessel Registration;
  • New Jersey Statutes, Title 12, Commerce and Navigation, Section 7-46, Boating Under the Influence;
  • New Jersey Statutes, Title 12, Commerce and Navigation, Section 7-34.46, Boater Responsibilities Following an Accident.
Age & Education Requirements

New Jersey boating laws have minimum age and boater safety education requirements as follow.

Age Requirements

  • Those under the age of 16, but older than 13 who have completed an approved boating safety course may operate a vessel powered solely by an electric motor or a vessel 12 feet or longer with an engine of less than 10 horsepower (HP.)
  • Those over the age of 16 who have completed a boating safety course may operate any power vessel and have a boating safety certificate.
  • Those born before 1979 may operate any vehicle except personal watercraft. The operation of personal watercraft by these same people requires the completion of a boating safety course and a boating safety certificate.

Boating Safety Certificates are required by all persons wishing to operate a power vessel.

Non-Tidal Boat Licenses

Non-tidal boat licenses are also required in some circumstances. Those seeking to boat on non-tidal waters must bear a non-tidal boat license except for:

  • Vessels with a motor of less than 1HP or a 12 volt electric motor;
  • Vessels 12 feet or longer with less than 10HP;
  • Competitors in races authorized and permitted by the Division of State Police;
  • Out-of-state residents with written proof of completion of a course substantially similar to New Jersey's.
Boating Under the Influence

New Jersey boating laws prohibit the operation of a vessel while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. An operator found to have a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more alcohol by weight is deemed to be intoxicated.

Enhanced penalties apply when an intoxicated operator:

  • has a BAC of 0.10 percent or greater;
  • is operating under the influence of a narcotic, hallucinogen, or habit producing drug;
  • is under the age of 17; or
  • has prior offenses.
Boating Accidents

An operator involved in an accident has an obligation to render assistance, as long as it doesn't put them or their passengers in serious danger. They are also obligated to provide their identifying information to anyone injured or whose property was damaged.

An accident that results in death, disappearance, injury to a person, or property damage must be reported to the Division of State Police by the vessel's operator. If death or disappearance of a person was involved this report must be made by the quickest means possible. Other qualifying accidents must be reported within 10 days.

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

Get Legal Help

Every sailor knows that rough seas can arise unexpectedly. Whether you have had a boating accident, run into issues with your registration or license, or have been accused of boating under the influence, a lawyer can help steer you to calmer waters. Contact a New Jersey boating laws attorney to help with any legal issues you are facing.

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