People are allowed to drink alcohol on a boat in California. However, they may not operate a boat or other form of of water transport when they are too impaired by alcohol or drugs to do so safely.
1. What is “Boating Under the Influence”?
California Harbors and Navigation Code 655 makes it a crime to operate a operate any vessel or use water skis, an aquaplane, or a similar device while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
“Boating under the influence” (BUI) is a crime akin to California DUI. And just as with DUI, a BUI conviction could land you penalties including:
- jail time,
- a fine,
- alcohol education classes, and possibly
- a California boating safety course.
Water vehicles you may not operate while impaired include:
- jet skis,
- water skis,
- aquaplanes, and
2. Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) and BUI
You are automatically considered too impaired to operate a boat or use water equipment if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% or greater. This works out to just over two drinks for most people.
You may also be guilty of BUI if you’re BAC is under the legal limit, but you are, nevertheless, too impaired by drugs and/or alcohol to operate a boat safely.
3. Boating Violations
The U.S. Coast Guard and police patrol boats have the authority to stop your boat if you commit a boating violation or if they otherwise suspect you of BUI. Either way, they must inform you of the reason for the stop.
Common reasons for being stopped include:
- turning too quickly,
- proceeding recklessly,
- expired or absent registration, and
- obvious missing safety equipment.
4. Do I Have to Take a Field Sobriety or Chemical Test?
There is no penalty for refusing to take any pre-arrest tests, including field sobriety tests (“FSTs”). If you are asked to take a pre-arrest Breathalyzer or FST, you may politely decline to do so without consequence.
5. Penalties for Boating Under the Influence
Penalties for BUI are much the same as for California DUI.
A first-time conviction for BUI carries potential penalties of:
- Informal (“summary”) probation for three to five years,
- Up to six months in a county jail,
- Between $390-$1,000 in fines, and/or
- A three- or nine-month court-approved DUI school.
These penalties can be increased if:
- you refuse to submit to a chemical test after you are arrested,
- you injure or kill someone as a result of your BUI,
- you commit a hit-and-run, or
- you have a prior conviction (within the last seven years) for either a DUI or BUI.
6. Legal Defenses to BUI Charges
There are many defenses a good DUI attorney can raise if you are charged with California boating under the influence. They include:
- you weren’t impaired,
- you were just tired from the sun and water,
- you were unstable from being on the water, not from being drunk
- problems with your chemical tests,
- improperly administered field sobriety testing (such as a wet or uneven surface),
- illegal stop or search,
- failure to read you your Miranda rights, and/or
- failure to give clear procedures and requirements during tests.
It is a good idea to write down everything you recall about the tests as soon as you are able. These details can help your lawyer present the best arguments to get your BUI charges thrown out or reduced… or to secure a “not guilty” verdict if your case goes to trial.
Our DUI defense attorneys represents clients against DUI- and BUI-related charges throughout Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange Counties.
If you or someone you know has been arrested for a DUI or BUI, contact us for a free consultation…. the sooner the better. Before you talk to the police or anyone else, talk to us.
We have successfully defended thousands of people against charges of DUI and BUI. With the right help, people can and do beat the charges.