Can You Get Arrested for DUI while Driving a Boat?
Many people are fully aware of the various laws enacted all across the nation that make it illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) equal to or higher than .08% However, a lot of people are not aware of the fact that every state also has similar rules regarding boating under the influence (BUI). These laws give officers the right to stop any type of watercraft and determine that the operators are able to safely handle the boat.
Birth of BUI Laws
BUI laws came about due to the increased number of boating injuries and fatalities. The Insurance Information Institute conducted research and found that alcohol was the number one factor in fatalities resulting from a boat accident.
BUI rules and laws apply to all types of crafts. Sailboats, yachts, fishing boat and personal watercraft are all subject to being stopped and questioned. Similar to the handling of DUI, people arrested and convicted of a BUI can face fines, jail time and increased insurance rates.
The U.S. Coast Guard has deemed that a person operating a watercraft under the influence of alcohol or drugs is more dangerous than a person operating a automobile. Watercrafts are not as easy to control as an automobile due to a lack of braking mechanisms. In addition, since there are no lanes on the road nor direction indicators on boats, it is impossible to tell which direction the vessel intends to go.
Operating a watercraft has unique risks that can impair a person's physical abilities. Some of these items include sun, heat, glare, wind and merely riding on a boat for an extended time. These items are often called 'boater's fatigue'. Alcohol or drugs can exacerbate boater's fatigue and make it even more difficult for a person to properly manage a watercraft.
Certain states and jurisdictions allow officers to set up checkpoints on the water similar to DUI checkpoints used on the road. Other states do not have a probable cause rule for stopping boaters. This means that officers can stop anyone anywhere without reason.
Possible BUI Offenses
Being stopped and arrested for BUI can carry additional offenses. The arrest itself may be retained on a person's criminal record. The person's boating license may be suspended. Other conditions may warrant stiffer penalties. For instance, if there were minors aboard the vessel when the person was arrested for BUI or if the minors were given any alcohol. Either of these circumstances could lead to a higher fine, more jail time, or both.
A person with a commercial boat license may lose their license for an extended time or forever. Anyone that receives a BUI may have to pay higher insurance rates on their car insurance since their actions have shown a greater risk.
Possible BUI Penalties
In a manner similar to DUI penalties, a person that is arrested and convicted of BUI can face fines, time spent in jail, and the loss of a boating license. If the offense is deemed a civil matter, the defendant will be asked to pay a fine as high as $1,000. However, a criminal matter is much more serious.
If the person had minors on the vessel at the time of the arrest, or the person attempted to flee from the police, or any number of other possibilities, the BUI may be considered a criminal act. The fine for a criminal BUI ranges from $500 up to $7,500. The person can go to jail for up to two years and have their boating license suspended for one full year.
In the event that the defendants actions caused the death of another person, the fine rises to a minimum of $2,500 and can be as high as $15,000. The prison sentence can be set between three and seven years.
Defending a BUI
An experienced DUI attorney who understands the BUI laws can be a valuable asset in defending a case against BUI. The attorney may be able to argue against the methods used to determine intoxication and may be able to convince a jury that the arrest was handled incorrectly. Consulting with an attorney is always the best course of action for any type of arrest.