Many recreational boaters are unaware that operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol is a serious crime. Investigators employ many of the same tests used in DUI cases to investigate BUI / BWI, including chemical tests and field sobriety tests. Anyone arrested on suspicion of BUI / BWI should consult with a California attorney experienced in defending boating under the influence cases.
More than 150 state and local agencies are responsible for enforcing boating laws in California. When an officer of one of those agencies has a reasonable belief that a boater is under the influence, the officer can require the boat operator to undergo a chemical test of his or her blood, breath, or urine.
Just as in a drinking and driving case, boaters operate their vessels under an implied consent law, meaning they agree to submit to a chemical test if suspected of BUI / BWI. Refusing to take a chemical test can result in additional penalties.
Although an accused boater has a choice of a blood, breath or urine test, a boater who chooses a breath test may also be requested to submit to a blood or urine test if the officer has a reasonable belief that the person was under the influence of drugs.
An officer investigating a boating under the influence case may require the operator to perform a field sobriety test, such as the walk and turn test. An arresting officer likely will note the boater’s behavior before, during, and after arrest, and document any signs and symptoms of intoxication. This information can be used to justify an arrest and provide evidence for a court case.
Many BUI / BWI investigations are prompted by a person falling overboard, a collision, or another type of accident. In the event of an accident or a person falling overboard, especially one causing injury or death, investigators will interview witnesses and passengers in the boat and will take photographs, measurements, and other physical evidence.
Because the potential penalties of BUI / BWI are so severe, it’s critical to have excellent legal representation. A California lawyer with experience defending boating under the influence cases can launch an aggressive defense and keep consequences to a minimum.