People who operate vehicles under the influence of drugs or alcohol find themselves losing driving privileges, paying exorbitant fees, and living under court supervision. With miles of sprawling coastline, Californians love boating, but would rather avoid the penalties that come with BUI charges.
Similar to DUI charges, boating under the influence violates California Harbors & Navigation Code 655. Penalties are similar to what one receive for driving a car, truck, or other land-based conveyance while intoxicated, yet there are several differences worth noting.
No Motor? No BUI
The foundational assumption behind DUI is that an intoxicated person must be operating some motor-based vehicle – not necessarily at great rates of speed, but operating nonetheless. In moving the motorized transportation down the street, the risk of hurting others, including themselves, increases significantly due to perceived impairment.
BUI adopts the same principles, but with a twist. Watercraft that have outboard motors or engines similar to vehicles, or use any means to propel the vessel across water, fall under Code 655. Jet skis, speed boats, yachts, and similar craft reliant on motor power would be some examples.
However, dinghis, kayaks, canoes, and any nautical travel device that does not use motorized propulsion is exempt from prosecution under California’s BUI laws. Because rowing will not cause dangerous speeds to be reached, it makes sense that human-propelled watercraft would be exempt from BUI charges.
Boating Privileges are Not Necessarily Lost
Drivers convicted of DUI normally lose their licenses for at least 30 days, if not longer. This not only keeps habitual offenders off California highways, but it gives offenders an opportunity to appreciate their driving privileges.
In BUI incidents, even those resulting in serious injury, driving privileges are not necessarily stripped. Jail time and other penalties imposed under DUI law are still in play, but losing licensure is not guaranteed. Since California law regarding Boater’s Cards does not include renters and will not include all adults until 2025, boat operating privileges go untouched in BUI cases.
Proving BUI is Much Trickier
Illegal search and seizure laws in California prevent the Coast Guard and other law enforcement professionals from entering your vessel without probable cause. Since traveling straight on water is rarely achieved by even the soberest boater, how does one determine if boat operators are drunk or high?
Apart from slamming into other boats, yelling obscenities, and causing problems while operating watercraft, the answer is sheer luck.
Boaters can always turn their craft off and quickly put oars in water, which would call to question whether the boat’s motor was running when maritime police pulled over the boat. Since cameras are nonexistent except in marinas, on properties bordering water and houseboats, raising reasonable doubt is much simpler for any BUI defense attorney to accomplish.
While boaters are strongly encouraged to have sober operators on hand should excessive drinking transpire, many times boaters brave the Pacific alone. Always know your limits, have life-saving rafts and other similar equipment nearby, and remember that BUI is treated as serious as DUI should prosecution secure a guilty verdict.
Accused of boating under the influence, and believe you are innocent? The Law Offices of James E. Blatt handle BUI cases with one goal – getting the charges dismissed. Contact an experienced law firm dedicated to preserving your innocence in boating-related arrests.