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What You Should Know About Boating Under the Influence

Much like driving a car, truck or SUV while drunk, if a person operates a boat or watercraft while under the influence of drugs or alcohol they stand to be charged boating under the influence (BUI), typically a misdemeanor, unless someone else was injured, in which case it would be a felony, punishable by a prison sentence if convicted.

California considers a person too intoxicated to operate a boat or watercraft when their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is at or above .08%. But, a person can be charged with BUI if they have a BAC between .05% and .08%.

If the boat operator is under the age of 21 and they have a BAC of 0.01% or higher, they are prohibited from operating a boat, water skis, or aquaplane. In other words, if you’re under 21 and you drink any alcohol, you cannot legally operate the above mechanical devices.

It's easy for recreational boaters to get carried away when a enjoying a day out on the lake, river, or ocean. As the sun begins to shine and the heats sets in, it's tempting to reach for that cold beer. Surprisingly, it is not illegal to carry alcohol on a personal watercraft.

The owner of the boat or watercraft can have alcohol on the vessel, he or she just cannot get drunk to the point where their BAC level rises to .08% or more.

Penalties for Boating Under the Influence

In California, the penalties for BUI are quite similar to those for driving under the influence. Anyone convicted of BUI faces the following penalties:

  • Up to $1,000 fine (misdemeanor)
  • Up to $5,000 fine (if someone else was injured)
  • Up to one year in county jail (misdemeanor)
  • Up to 10 years in prison (felony)
  • Refusal to take chemical test (fine or jail, or both)

Note: If you are facing BUI charges and you have any previous drug or alcohol-related convictions related to motor vehicles or boats, those will be counted as “priorable” offenses and they will lead to enhanced penalties, whether it’s a subsequent DUI or BUI.

Contact an Orange County BUI Attorney

Thousands of people throughout Orange County take advantage of the county's proximity to the Pacific Ocean, lakes and rivers. If you’re planning to spend time out on the water, make sure you designate a sober boater as you would a sober driver.

In the event that you are arrested for BUI, you can trust an experienced Orange County BUI lawyer at the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry for an aggressive defense and to seek a reduction or dismissal of charges!

For more information about our services, contact the office today by calling (949) 537-2202!