We all know about drinking and driving, but what about boating and driving? While people may think that it’s okay to have a few drinks while enjoying time on the water with family and friends, they need to be very careful. There are, in fact, strict laws around how much alcohol a person can consume while operating a water vessel, and if violated, they can turn a pleasant summer afternoon into a nightmare.
What are the laws around BUIs?
The Boat Safety Act of Georgia prohibits anyone from operating a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In addition to boats, the law includes any motorized or sailing vehicle on the water such as jet skis, water skis, and sailboats.
After two tragic boating accidents on Lake Lanier in 2012, the law around boating under the influence came into the spotlight, and in May 2013 the legal limit changed from .10 to .08, (.02 if the person is under 21 years old), which is the same as the motor vehicle law.
What are the consequences of violating the BUI law?
Similar penalties for those violating the BUI law were also put in place to match DUI violations, resulting in harsher penalties for both first-time and repeat offenders.
First and second-time offenders convicted of violating the BUI law will be found guilty of a misdemeanor. However, if a person is convicted a third time, they will be guilty of a high and aggravated misdemeanor; if convicted a fourth time, they will be guilty of a felony. The different types of BUI charges also depend on whether injuries to others or loss of life occurred.
The punishments if convicted depend on the charge. First-time offenders can expect a fine of no less than $300 and could also face a prison sentence or community service. Repeat offenders could be fined up to $5,000 and receive a prison sentence of up to five years.
What are the similarities and differences between DUIs and BUIs?
Unlike a DUI, an accused boater has only 10 days to request a hearing to argue for their right to continue operating their vehicle. A person suspected of a BUI will be asked to perform field sobriety tests, though they can refuse, just as in a suspected DUI case.
A person is permitted to drink alcohol aboard their non-motorised flotation device as long as they are not driving it. This is not the same as driving since a person sitting in their car and drinking alcohol can be charged with open container. In a Georgia BUI cases, a person can only be suspended from boating at the administrative level, as opposed to a DUI case where the driver’s license must be surrendered as a result of a criminal conviction. A judge can, however, decide the person should refrain from boating as one of the conditions of probation. Additionally, both BUI and DUI cases can be heard in a jury trial.
Operating a water vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs impairs your judgment and decision-making ability, both mentally and physically. Boating responsibly will make sure that you don’t put yourself or anyone else at unnecessary risk.
Boating laws are strictly enforced in Georgia, and remember, you only have 10 days to appeal your license suspension. If you have been charged with a BUI, the experienced attorneys at Savannah DUI are here to help. Get in touch with our team for a free consultation today (912) 221-4441.