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Boating Under the Influence: 3 Things to Know

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on July 06, 2015 9:56 AM

With summer now in full swing, many of us will be spending more time out on the water. And many newcomers to the boating scene are surprised to discover that you can get a DUI on a boat.

According to the Coast Guard, "a boat operator with a blood alcohol concentration above .10 percent is estimated to be more than 10 times as likely to die in a boating accident than an operator with zero blood alcohol concentration." Therefore, every state has boating under the influence laws, which function similarly to driving under the influence laws. Here are three things you need to know about BUI laws.

  1. It's a lot like a DUI, just on the water. State and federal law enforcement authorities can "pull you over in your boat" and detain you if they believe you're operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs. And just like drunk driving investigations, officers may administer field sobriety tests or Breathalyzer tests to determine your level of intoxication. State laws can vary regarding the level of probable cause to initiate a BUI investigation, the minimum blood alcohol content required to result in a BUI conviction, and the penalties for refusing to submit to Breathalyzer tests.
  2. You may lose your driver's license. While a BUI conviction will generally result in the suspension or revocation of your boating license, you could also lose your driver's license if you're convicted of boating under the influence. Even though you weren't driving a car or truck at the time, some jurisdictions include driver's license penalties as deterrents for BUIs.
  3. BUI penalties can be just as severe as those for DUIs. Just because you're out having fun on a boat doesn't mean the authorities will take it easy on you. A BUI conviction will go on your criminal record, and you could face jail time, heavy fines, and civil liability if you cause an accident or injuries. And punishments for boating under the influence can be even harsher for commercial boat operators.

As with DUIs, the best way to avoid a BUI conviction is to not drink while you're behind the wheel or under the sails. And just like DUIs, there are attorneys that may be able to help you with your BUI case.

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