BUI - Boating Under the Influence

Have You Been Stopped For a BUI Check?

If you have been flagged down as part of a boating while intoxicated sweep, remember that there are many factors that can complicate a field sobriety test. Many times an officer will evaluate your physical condition and behavior to determine whether you are intoxicated. If you have spent a long day in the sun and on the water, chances are you may appear to the officer as being under the influence. Your red eyes, wobbly gait, and lightheadedness from dehydration can all be mistaken for alcohol consumption.

If you feel you are being singled out for a field sobriety test, it is very important to get in touch with a BUI expert lawyer immediately. Don't delay in contacting a legal expert who can assist you, as your boating and driving licenses can both depend on the outcome of your case.

Consequences of Boating Drunk

Many people do not understand that boating drunk is a crime in many waterways. Just like DUI laws, drunk boating laws differ from place to place and state to state. If you own a boat or are thinking of purchasing a boat, be sure to research your local laws on boating drunk. Too often, people are caught by surprise and can lose their ability to use their boat or even lose the boat. Fines can also be involved.

Boating is expensive enough without the possible added costs of boating drunk. You can enjoy your day of boating with or without alcohol. If you choose to have some, be sure to make yourself knowledgeable of the local drunk boating laws.

BUI Checkpoints?

Boating under the influence laws are similar to other state laws regulating motor vehicles. Law enforcement can stop, inspect, and test boaters for sobriety in the same manner they do in roadside checks on state highways. Did you know that in 2005, a sweep of the waterways was conducted specifically to stop those boating under the influence?

The Sacramento River in Northern California was the site of a waterway sweep that "pulled over" twelve vessels. State and local officials are quite involved in charging those boating while intoxicated. Just because there is no "open container" law on the waterways in many states doesn't give boaters the freedom to create unsafe conditions through the use of alcohol.

Boating While Intoxicated in Texas

According to a recent study, Texas has more square miles of inland water than any other state. With all of this to cover, there are many laws regarding boating while intoxicated in the State of Texas:

* In Texas, it is illegal to operate a boat with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher (the same as that for a DWI)
* Texas law establishes stiff penalties for boating while intoxicated (BWI)
* If you are found to be boating while intoxicated in Texas in a vessel that has an engine over 50 horsepower, your license will automatically be suspended.

If you own a boat or personal watercraft in Texas, think twice before downing a few on the water.

Open Container Laws on the Water

Some states estimate the accident rate for combining alcohol and boats at a whopping 50 percent of all aquatic mishaps, so it's no surprise there are more aggressive procedures to curb boating under the influence. The most confusing aspect of many state laws (including California boating under the influence laws) is that unlike automobiles, open containers of alcohol are permitted on boats in most cases. This gives the false impression that boating while intoxicated is either ignored or under-enforced.

The truth is, open containers may be legal, but if the boat operator's blood alcohol content exceeds .08, it is a violation of the law and punishable by fines, jail time, and suspension of permits or licenses. If you have the responsibility of operating the boat and steering it around the waterway, you bear the burden of remaining within the legal limits for alcohol consumption.

Waterway law permits passengers to enjoy alcoholic beverages and does not attempt to regulate consumption, except where state and local laws typically apply. One area that does apply to passengers in many states? Once a person puts on a pair of water skis, they are subject to the same penalties as the boat captain for boating while intoxicated if caught skiing under the influence.

Reasons For a BUI Stop

There are some obvious behaviors to signal an intoxicated boater. Once impaired by alcohol, boat captains often go too fast for the waterway, turn aggressively, and forget to turn on running lights and other required nighttime equipment. Sound familiar? These are many of the reasons alcohol is banned in connection with driving.

Across the 50 states, law enforcement officials are trained to look for these telltale signs of intoxication and motor vehicle use. On the water it's no different, with the major exception being that the safety factor is far lower.

In some states, boating under the influence charges may be reduced or dismissed in certain circumstances if the defendant is eligible for a "misdemeanor diversion program". However, these kinds of second chance programs aren't needed for those who simply obey the rules. If you aren't intoxicated, chances are you won't attract the attention of the police so long as you operate with the required gear and at the appropriate speeds.

Too Many are Boating While Intoxicated

Drunk driving is a problem on the open roads but what about the open waterways? Boating while intoxicated occurs in a far larger percentage than driving an automobile while intoxicated and the consequences can be just as bad. With no 'lanes' or true traffic direction on the waterways, boating while intoxicated can cause further disarray when it comes to boat traffic.

Vision is even more important on the water than behind the wheel of a car. Many boats differ greatly in size, often times an un-alert boater will not even see the boat that they are about to run into. Being intoxicated while boating will enhance any pre-existing difficulties and dangers that usually occur when captaining a boat. If you are the Captain, let the passengers enjoy themselves with a few drinks, but keep yourself safe by avoiding boating while intoxicated.

Boating Safety and Alcohol

One serious cause of accidents both on the road and on the water is due to a syndrome called "inattentional blindness". When a person consumes alcohol, their power to focus attention is diminished.

Inattentional blindness is possible in non-alcohol situations, drinking only aggravates the problem. Inattentional blindness is the cause of collisions, hit and run incidents, and other vehicular and boating accidents. With enough alcohol in the body, a person may not even be aware that they have struck an object, run aground, or even lost a passenger.

The real danger in a boating while intoxicated situation is a combination of the risk of capsizing the vessel, and alcohol impairing the ability to swim to safety. Aquatic accidents are deadly enough without the added complication of intoxication. Boating while intoxicated seriously ups the ante by impairing the basic skills to pilot the boat and to get to safety in the event of a mishap.

Steep Local Penalties

The local consequences for boating under the influence can be quite severe. California boating under the influence laws include the option to suspend driving licenses. Did you know you could lose your license for up to five years for a boating while intoxicated conviction?

In California alone there are more than 150 agencies responsible for governing the state's waterways. Many states have increased their surveillance of local waterways to prevent boating related accidents and lower the instances of boating under the influence.

Laws Against Boating Drunk in Florida

In Florida, boating drunk has strict consequences. It is against Florida law to operate a vessel while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Any operator suspected of boating under the influence must submit to a sobriety test and a chemical test to determine alcohol content.

Boating drunk and failing to comply with the sobriety exam can result in suspension of your license. Like other states and like DUI laws, there is a specific blood alcohol content level at which you are presumed to be drunk. In Florida, the blood alcohol level that declares that you are boating drunk is any level over .08%.

Each year, many accidents happen in Florida waterways due to boating drunk. Next time you are thinking of joining in the fun on your watch as Captain, think twice; it may cost you your Captain's hat.

Coast Guard Involvement in BUI Stops

The Coast Guard has an agreement with state and local authorities to cooperate with enforcement of boating while intoxicated laws. If a Coast Guard vessel intercepts someone boating under the influence, they have the authority to detain and redirect the vessel in question.

Redirecting means that if a vessel is "pulled over" by the Coast Guard, the vessel can be taken to mooring by someone considered competent to operate the vessel. This can be one of the passengers, but more likely is a Coast Guard member being ordered to take charge of the vessel.

California boating under the influence laws (as well as many other states) dictate that the Coast Guard detain the operator in most cases until law enforcement can pick up the offender. This can take many hours depending on caseload for local law enforcement! Boating under the influence is regulated by such inter-agency cooperation in many states. The inconvenience, penalties, and embarrassment connected with being found boating under the influence is simply not worth the risk.

Reasons to Avoid Operating a JetSki or Boating While Intoxicated

The government and political action groups have taken great strides in educating people about drunk driving. Boating while intoxicated, however, is not as common a problem across the country and therefore has not received the same amount of attention. However, here are many reasons to avoid using a personal watercraft or boating while intoxicated:

* Boats are controlled by both people and water -- the open water has influence on a boat's path
* You must remain aware when boating and boating while intoxicated will hamper your abilities
* If you are the owner of a Jet Ski or other personal watercraft, you are harder to see than a larger boat & intoxication hinders judgment
* Boating while intoxicated can also lead to losing your craft if you are charged

*Safety and freedom are the main reasons why you should avoid boating while intoxicated.

California Laws Regarding Boating While Intoxicated

In the State of California, boating while intoxicated carries similar definitions and penalties as driving while intoxicated. California states that no person can operate any boat or personal watercraft (including manipulating water skis or an inner tube) if that person is under the influence of alcohol. As with DUI, California specifies a legal limit for intoxication of .08%. Anything over .08% will bring fines, possible license suspension, and possible jail time.

California also has laws regarding underage boating while intoxicated. Any person under the age of 21 in California may not operate a boat, Jet Ski, water skis, or any similar devices if they have a blood alcohol level of .01% or more. No matter the situation, boating while intoxicated in California can have serious repercussions.

*Not having any alcohol on a watercraft is the safest way for everyone to enjoy boating. The person operating the craft is not the only one at risk (intoxicated passengers are also at risk of injury and falling overboard).

What is Not Considered Boating Under the Influence

Boating while intoxicated can be a serious offense, especially if injuries or property damage come as a result. Laws vary from state to state, but many states are in agreement on what does not constitute a violation of regulations. Watercraft that may be defined as being propelled by "water alone" are often exempt from these laws.

A kayak is an excellent example of the type of craft exempt from boating while intoxicated laws. There are many other vehicles and water accessories which are indeed regulated, including water skis and jet skis. If the craft has any kind of motor at all, it falls under the jurisdiction of the BUI laws.

Remember that the real danger of combining alcohol and watercraft, regardless of boating under the influence rules, is safety. You may feel your kayaking or rafting skills are up to the challenge, but alcohol seriously decreases your safety margin. It is very easy to miscalculate obstacles, safe swimming distances, and navigation markers while under the influence.

Boating Drunk - An Underestimated Danger

While driving an automobile is mostly a necessity for travel, boating is usually a more social device. When people go boating, they are most often enjoying a long day of sun and fun and, often they have a few drinks—this leads to many occurrences of boating drunk.

Boating drunk is a danger that many people do not take into consideration (when you combine alcohol with a day of absorbing solar rays and exhaustion, boating drunk can quickly become disastrous). Many waterways are filled with traffic and boats are getting bigger and bigger while personal watercraft remains smaller. Imagine what a drunk driver in an 18-wheeler would do to a motorcyclist on the road; boating drunk when captaining a large vessel can have similar results for a Jetski user.

*Next time you are boating, do not forget that you alcohol consumption will be enhanced by the heat and think ahead before heading in.

Confusing BUI Laws?

Boating under the influence laws vary from state to state. Some states have a BUI limit of .05 instead of the usual .08. Did you know that in some areas the definition of "boating while intoxicated" is described as any condition where the boat operator cannot properly guide or control the vessel? It's true--you may be subject to laws, which give far greater freedom to law enforcement to interpret. This means that you could be charged with a BUI offense even though you are well under the accepted "legal limit".

Some boating under the influence laws are extremely vague in one respect. If the law is interpreted one way, a single drink is enough to be in violation. Interpreted the other way, one drink is harmless enough. As usual, the best policy in these circumstances is "better safe than sorry."