Boating Under the Influence

Boating Under the InfluenceYou often hear about driving under the influence (DUI) charges for someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol and operating a motor vehicle. However, many do not realize that operating a boat while under the influence (BUI) of the aforementioned is also illegal. Many people view boating as a past time during vacations and, as such, forget that imbibing alcohol is not permitted if you are operating the boat. Specifically, California Harbors and Navigation Code 655 deals with DUI charges for those operating a boat or watercraft.

The Code deals with both commercial and recreational watercrafts, and has limits set accordingly. For general and recreational vessels, it is illegal to operate it while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, which means this can apply even if the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is less than 0.08 percent. Moreover, for those operating a recreational vessel, it is also illegal to have a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher. However, for those operating a commercial vessel, the threshold decreases to 0.04 percent, meaning that even having a BAC as low as 0.04 percent can lead to a BUI charge and possible conviction.

BUI charges are similar to DUI charges and, similarly, their punishments vary based on the context of the crime and the criminal past of the defendant. A BUI is also a wobbler; therefore, the defendant can face either a misdemeanor or felony offense depending on the crime. A prosecution can move forward with a BUI misdemeanor and the defendant can face up to a year in a county jail and a possible payment of fines. However, if a felony charge is applied, a convicted individual faces a steeper penalty of up to three years in a county jail.

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