Boating is a way of life for many Georgia families. With over 2,300 miles of coastline, the state invites residents to head out on the water for fun and recreation. But when alcohol is involved, fun in the sun can quickly turn into criminal charges. Find out what you need to know if you’re facing a boating under the influence charge.
In this blog post, I will talk about when DUI charges happen on the water. I will explain the criminal consequences of boating under the influence and what defenses you and your criminal defense attorney can use if you are facing the charges.
Most people know that drunk driving is illegal and carries with it some pretty serious legal consequences. But what you may not realize is that those same limits extend onto Georgia’s lakes and coastal waters too. The Georgia Boat Safety Act says that it is illegal to operate any moving vessel while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or “toxic vapors”. The legal limits for boating under the influence are the same as the state DUI laws:
The law also prevents allowing another person to operate a vehicle in the same condition. This part of the law can be applied to parents who allow their children to drink and boat, or the owners of watercraft who let friends and family members use their vessels while they are intoxicated.
Even if you were aware that you could be charged with boating under the influence for operating a power boat or personal watercraft (PWC) after drinking, you may not have realized just how many water sports are covered by the law. Georgia’s BUI law has one of the most far-reaching definitions of boating in the country. It covers:
That means even if you aren’t in a boat, you can still be charged with BUI if a conservation ranger or police officer has reason to believe you are over the legal limits.
The maximum penalty for BUI depends on two main factors: any past BUI convictions in the last 10 years, and whether there was a child in the vessel or being towed on skis, an innertube, wakeboard, or other similar device. The maximum penalty for BUI is:
Where there are children involved, either as passengers in or being towed behind a boat, the person charged with boating under the influence can also face a second charge of child endangerment. This is a separate misdemeanor conviction with a maximum penalty of 12 months in jail and $1,000 in fines. However, third and subsequent convictions of child endangerment are felonies. In those cases, the criminal defendant could face up to three years in prison and $5,000 in fines.
Many of the defenses to BUI charges are the same as drunk or drugged driving. Depending on the circumstances in your case, your attorney may be able to challenge whether:
If you have been charged with boating under the influence, you should speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney to develop your best defense and protect your right to boat on Georgia’s lakes and coasts. Lance McCoy of The McCoy Law Firm, LLC, is a criminal and DUI defense attorney with 25 years of experience. From his family-owned law firm in Cartersville, Georgia, he represents defendants facing boating under the influence charges throughout northwest Georgia. If you are facing Georgia DUI or BUI charges, please contact Criminal & DUI Law of Georgia so we can begin working on your case right away.