Many boaters are unaware that is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state. This law pertains to nearly all boats, from sailboats to cruise ships. Boating under the influence, also known as BUI / BWI, is a serious charge that carries substantial penalties. Anyone arrested on suspicion of boating under the influence should consult with an experienced California BUI / BWI attorney.
Most BUI / BWI’s are charged as misdemeanors, and are punishable by up to one year in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. BUIs that result in injury to another person can be charged as a felony, and carry a penalty of one year in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. Boating under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs and causing death to another person is a felony that carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. Vessel operators convicted of boating under the influence also can be required to take boating safety courses and alcohol education classes.
A person arrested Boating Under the Influence likely will be required to take a blood or breath test to determine blood alcohol concentration (BAC). A BAC of .08 percent is considered a definite sign of intoxication, but even a BAC of between .05 percent and .08 percent can be used with other evidence to establish intoxication. Refusal to take a chemical test may result in increased penalties if convicted. Previous alcohol or drug-related convictions of vehicle and vessel operators also can be used to enhance criminal penalties in BUI / BWI cases.
In California, boaters under 21 are not allowed to consume any alcohol at all. A person under 21 with a BAC of .01 percent or more cannot even use water skis. A BAC of .01 percent to .05 percent in a boater under 21 is an infraction, with penalties similar to a traffic ticket.
Because the penalties in a BUI / BWI case can be so severe, it’s extremely important to have aggressive legal representation. A California criminal defense lawyer with experience defending boating under the influence cases can fight the charges and keep consequences to a minimum.