Boating Under the Influence of Alcohol – DUI Boating in California
It is amazing how quickly a day of fun in the sun can turn into a nightmare of sitting in the back seat of a police car. That is what happens all too often at Orange County beaches, rivers, and lakes when officers arrest citizens for BUI (boating under the influence).
Under the law in the State of California, a person will be held criminally liable if he or she operates a boat while under the influence of alcohol, narcotics or drugs and such offense is similarly treated to that of driving a vehicle under an impaired condition due to the same factors. The offense of boating under influence can be committed while in the lake, river or out in the ocean.
About 38 percent of all fatal motorboat accidents in California are caused by BUI or boasting under influence of alcohol or drugs. To address this problem, laws have been passed. The California Harbors and Navigation Code Section 655: provides the following provisions:
(b) No person shall operate any vessel or manipulate water skis, an aquaplane, or a similar device while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, any drug, or the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and any drug. (c) 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. (d) No person shall operate any vessel other than a recreational vessel if the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.04 percent or more in his or her blood.
The symptoms of boating under the influence of drugs which will primary attract the police officers to the boats are similar to that of driving under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol, which is known as a depressant is quickly absorbed by the muscles, nerves and even the brain thereby impairing a person’s ability to handle or maneuver a boat. The common symptoms of BUI are speeding, right of way violations and equipment violation such as life preservers or navigation lights, lack of current visible registration and erratic driving of the water craft. This happens very often because coordination is lost and balance is difficult to maintain. None of those factors prove that a person was boating while under the influence. An experienced attorney will look for probable cause to prove that the arresting officer did not have probable cause to stop the water craft. If that can be proven, then all evidence gathered after that point must be thrown out.
California Harbors and Navigation Code does not absolutely prohibit passengers or the operators of a boat or watercraft from drinking or carrying alcohol in the vessels provided that the person’s blood alcohol level does not exceed .08% .
In apprehending a person who is believed to be boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the police officer is still required to observe the necessary procedures which include conducting the preliminary questioning, field sobriety test and chemical test. Section 655.4(a) of the California Harbors and Navigation Code provides that “No person shall serve as a crew member on any charter boat while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, or the combined influence of intoxicating liquor and any drug.
The defenses and consequences of boating under the influence of alcohol and driving under the influence of alcohol are more or less the same but they are not identical in terms of jail sentence and probation as provided under the same law which is the California Harbors and Navigation Code.
If you or a loved one has been arrested for BUI in Orange County, call our office and schedule a free in-person consultation. Find out how Coffey and Coffey will defend your case: (800) 706-7888.