(Guest blog provided by the Arizona DUI Team)
We’re all familiar with driving under the influence or DUI. Most of us drive cars, and we’ve seen how much of the spotlight has been trained on fatal car accidents where alcohol is involved. What isn’t getting much attention, however, is boating under the influence (BUI), perhaps because there are far fewer boat operators than car drivers. Boating under the influence, however, is just as illegal as DUI. In some cases, BUI is just as deadly as driving under the influence.
Driving a boat is harder
Handling watercraft safely is hard enough. It takes a lot of skill to operate, and you have to be adept at navigating the waters as well. The heat of the sun can take a toll on you, and the waves can be treacherous at times. Add alcohol to the mix, and you have a recipe for disaster. Many deaths that resulted from boating accidents involved alcohol, according to data from the U.S. Coast Guard.
There are state and federal laws against BUI
The U.S. Coast Guard is tasked with enforcing the federal law against boating under the influence. Foreign vessels in U.S. waters and American boats on the high seas fall under the jurisdiction of this law. Whether you’re operating a small rowboat or captaining a massive cargo ship, the federal law on BUIs applies to you.
Each of the 50 states also has BUI laws. While their stipulations are mostly similar particularly when it comes to the legal blood alcohol limit which is 0.08%, the penalties that BUI violators face may differ from state to state.
For example, if you get a BUI conviction in Iowa, New Hampshire, Oregon and South Carolina, you could lose your boating privileges on top of the usual fines and possible jail time. Meanwhile, states like Oregon and Rhode Island also require DUI convicts to take a boating safety course. In Indiana and New Jersey, a BUI violation could also mean the possible suspension of your driver’s license.
Major BUI penalties
As with DUIs, a conviction for boating under the influence carries with it several penalties. Courts commonly impose a substantial fine, although the amount may differ depending on the state and the severity of your case. If your BUI offense is a misdemeanor, you will likely pay a fine of up to $1,000. However, if you’re convicted of a felony BUI charge, you could be made to pay fines of $25,000 or more.
It is also common for courts to sentence DUI convicts to probation, which could last for 12 months or longer. While under probation, you are expected to fulfill all of its terms, because doing the opposite could lead to heavier fines, longer probation or jail time. If you do get sentenced to prison, you may be ordered to serve up to 12 months. And if a lenient judge heard your case, you could serve even less time. However, if the boating accident you were involved in seriously injured or killed someone, your case is a felony, and you’re looking at a much longer prison term once convicted.
How does one get arrested for a BUI?
Since lakes and seas are so much bigger and wider than highways, you might think that getting caught drinking and boating isn’t likely to happen to you. That would be a big mistake since law enforcement units set up BUI checkpoints at strategic points. They have the authority to stop your boat and board it if they believe you’re operating the boat while under the influence of alcohol. They can even do the same in some states with or without probable cause. Refrain from driving and boating, and save lives, including your own.
For more information on BWI, check out this handy infographic below!