Many individuals enjoy recreational boating, but are unaware that boating under the influence of alcohol is a crime. A conviction for boating under the influence carries serious penalties, including jail time and fines. Anyone facing a charge of boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs should consult with a California criminal defense attorney experienced in defending similar cases.
In California, boating under the influence, or BUI / BWI, falls under the Harbors and Navigation Code, which defines being under the influence as having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent for a recreational vessel and .04 percent for a commercial craft. The statute sets a zero tolerance for craft such as aquaplanes and water skis, meaning that the user cannot ingest any alcohol at all.
Boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs is, in many ways, even more dangerous that driving under the influence. Alcohol can negatively impact judgment, balance, coordination, and vision, and increase the likelihood of risk-taking behavior. In fact, information from the United States Coast Guard shows that in boating deaths involving alcohol use, over half the victims capsized their boats and/or fell overboard.
Boats, by their nature, are inferior to cars in their ability to steer and to brake. Moreover, the typical boat operator spends only a few days a year on the water, making boat operators less skilled on the water than they are on land. When this is coupled with the motion and spray typical of most boating outings, along with fatigue and alcohol consumption, the potential for danger is obvious.
A conviction for boating under the influence counts as a prior conviction in future drunk driving cases. This means that if a person is convicted of boating under the influence, and is arrested for DUI on land or water within 10 years, the DUI will be considered a second-offense case.
Because the potential penalties for boating under the influence are so severe, it’s critical to have competent legal counsel. A California attorney experienced in defending BUI / BWI cases can mount an aggressive defense to the charges, and keep consequences to a minimum.