Boating DUI & BUI

  • Post last modified:July 9, 2024

States in the U.S. frown upon DUIs. In some states, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and bikers may also be arrested and need a criminal defense lawyer for DUIs and face the same punishments as vehicle owners who were caught operating their vehicle under the influence.

However, with motorists being the most commonly arrested people for DUI crime, it is rare for a boat operator to be held for such crimes. Boat operators or operators of watercraft may also be arrested for operating their equipment under the influence and this is known as Boating Under the Influence (BUI).

BUIs are on the increase and may lead to all kinds of injuries, some fatal, others non-fatal. BUIs are the leading cause of watercraft accidents and may put the lives of occupants at risk. A most recent study carried out by the United States Coast Guards revealed that BUIs are one of the leading contributors to boating accidents, accounting for up to a quarter of boating accidents recorded.

What are the Elements of a BUI

Boating Under the Influence is much similar to DUI, only that it involves a boat on water instead of a vehicle on land. The watercraft operator must be established to have been inebriated and have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

BUIs are also not restricted to the action of alcohol or illegal drugs. In some cases, prescription drugs may also cause a boat operator to become intoxicated or incapable of making sober decisions. In such cases where the boat or watercraft operator had consumed over the counter or prescription drugs that had affected their mental clarity, such operators may also be held for BUI.

Similar to DUI, several states across the U.S. frown against this practice and as such have set a legal limit for Blood Alcohol Concentration of watercraft operators. For both DUIs and BUIs, the legal limit is set at 0.08 percent. However, in some states, drivers and operators are subjected to a more lenient treatment thus allowing as high as 0.10 percent BAC level.

In some states, however, there is a standing zero tolerance law against drunk driving for minors. This means that minors are not allowed to drive or operate a boat when they are considered to be intoxicated or incapable of making clear mental decisions regarding their safety and of others. In such states where the zero-tolerance laws for minors exist, minors may be charged for having the littlest alcohol content in their blood while operating watercraft like jet skis, boats, and other recreational watercraft.

To establish a BUI, a method that is similar to DUI is employed. Watercraft operators may be subjected to a field sobriety test, blood alcohol test or the use of the breathalyzer machine. As with DUI cases, a boat operator may choose to refuse a sobriety test or the alcohol test, however, this may result in serious criminal consequences.

Law enforcement agencies may oftentimes set up BUI stops on lakes and other parts of the water body to ensure the safety of operators, passengers, and other waterway users. BUI checks are however more common around the holidays to ensure a lower frequency of accidents and injuries.

In some cases, personal crafts may also be pulled over by law enforcement officers if they have enough reasons to suspect that something sinister may be ongoing. One of the more common reasons why personal crafts and boats may be pulled over is erratic driving which puts other boats at risk.

A BUI charge in some states may lead to the conviction of the operator based on the testimony of the officers and witnesses.

What are the Penalties for BUI

Boat operators and drivers who have been arrested for BUI may face serious consequences. In some cases, drivers may face fines or jail time, all depending on the facts of the case and presence or absence of aggravating factors.

Since boating requires a license that is stand-alone from driving license, such a person may have his or her license revoked or suspended. In other cases, a court may require that such an erring boat operator be enrolled in a boating safety course or similar to DUI cases, an alcohol education class. Upon the completion of the courses, or upon securing a waiver, the convict may be entitled to receiving their license back.

While private boat operators are held to a much lower standard thus implying lighter punishments, commercial boat operators may be faced with a much harsher penalty. Commercial boat operators are responsible not only for their own safety but for other passengers and as such, they are regarded to be putting the lives of many at risk. A commercial BUI conviction may lead to the revocation of the commercial operator’s license, however, a repeat offender may have his or her license revoked permanently. This may also lead to business shut down.

Jail or Prison Time

If a boat operator has been convicted of a DUI crime, such a person can face imprisonment, mandatory alcohol assessment, and treatment, fines, probation and community service. Much similar to DUI, a person who has been convicted of BUI for the first time will not face extended jail time or prison time. In most cases, a first-time offense may be considered a misdemeanor.

In the case of a misdemeanor BUI, convicts may face between 24 hours to 48hours and up to three to six months in jail. The time frame of the jail sentence will be dependent on some factors including the type of injuries, blood alcohol concentration, and other aggravating factors.

Subsequent BUI or DUI offenses may lead to stiffer penalties and longer jail terms. A person is faced with a felony BUI when another person has been injured or killed as a result of the accident. a felony BUI may lead to conviction lasting several years in a prison sentence.

Fines and Costs

Fines associated with BUI, like DUI cases can be expensive. Fines imposed can range from between $500 to $2,000 and in some cases, the imposed fines and additional costs may be more. The fines imposed are dependent on the state laws and the type of BUI case. Typically, a first-time offender will enjoy lower fines compared to a subsequent offender.

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