It’s that time of year again, summer is here and people throughout California will be taking to the water to enjoy our state’s recreational water-sport areas. Boating Under the Influence, also known as DUI boating and boating DUI, is not as common as a DUI, however, if you are convicted under one of California’s BUI laws you could face fines, jail, and alcohol/drug education programs. Officers will be on the lookout for BUIs and are eager to make arrests to keep these recreational areas safer.
What is Boating Under the Influence?
Not everyone is familiar with the fact that you can face criminal charges if you are convicted of operating a boat, water skis, aquaplane, jet ski, or any similar equipment while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Boating under the influence is criminalized under the California Harbors and Navigation Code 655. This code features several laws that regulate boating activities in regards to drinking and drugs.
Typically, a chemical blood or breath (breathalyzer) test will be used to determine your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Like a DUI, the Harbors and Navigation Code 655c prohibits operating any of the listed equipment if your BAC is 0.08% or greater. The law also penalizes you for operating any of the listed equipment while under the influence of alcohol/drugs if you injure another as a result.
No person shall operate any recreational vessel or manipulate any water skis, aquaplane, or similar device if the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more in his or her blood.
Where the law differs from a traditional DUI is the fact that on a boat you are allowed to have open containers of alcohol. Passengers and drivers of boats and other water equipment can consume alcohol; however, you will be in violation of the law if you operate this equipment while over the legal limit.
Proving a BUI
In order to convict you of boating under the influence it has to be proven that you were in fact operating water equipment while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Prosecutors will rely on several factors while trying to prove guilt:
- The manner in which you operated a boat, water skis, aquaplane, jet ski, or similar water equipment.
- Physical appearance such as slurred speech, red/water eyes, and other signs and symptoms of intoxication.
- The results of your field sobriety test.
- The results of a chemical blood or breathalyzer test.
BUI charges can vary depending on the severity of the crime. A BUI with a BAC of 0.08% or higher is the standard boating under the influence charge. Aggravated BUI indicates that you were under the influence of alcohol/drugs and as a result caused injury to another either by breaking the law or operating the equipment in a negligent manner. Manslaughter while intoxicated refers to a negligent or grossly negligent act that caused the death of another.
BUI convictions can be very serious and if convicted you could face jail or prison time and hefty fines. It is also important to note that California has a zero tolerance policy for minors who are charged with BUI. If you are under the age of 21 and have any measurable amount of alcohol in your system you cannot operate a boat, water ski, aquaplane, jet ski, or any other similar water equipment. If you have been charged with BUI it is advised that you consult with an attorney who has experience with California’s BUI laws immediately to discuss the details of your case.