California is home to many lakes and parks that lead to a lot of outdoor activities, especially during the summer months. With activities like boating and jet skiing many people spend time on the lake. What you may not be aware of is the fact that these areas are patrolled by law enforcement who take the safety of the areas visitors seriously. Boating Under the Influence (BUI), Driving Under the Influence (DUI), and possession of a controlled substance are all strictly enforced.
What is Boating Under the Influence?
Not everyone is familiar with the fact that you can face criminal charges if you are convicted of operating a boat, water skis, aquaplane, jet ski, or any similar equipment while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Boating under the influence is criminalized under the California Harbors and Navigation Code 655. This code features several laws that regulate boating activities in regards to drinking and drugs.
Typically, a chemical blood or breath (breathalyzer) test will be used to determine your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Like a DUI, the Harbors and Navigation Code 655c prohibits operating any of the listed equipment if your BAC is 0.08% or greater. The law also penalizes you for operating any of the listed equipment while under the influence of alcohol/drugs if you injure another as a result.
No person shall operate any recreational vessel or manipulate any water skis, aquaplane, or similar device if the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more in his or her blood.
Where the law differs from a traditional DUI is the fact that on a boat you are allowed to have open containers of alcohol. Passengers and drivers of boats and other water equipment can consume alcohol; however, you will be in violation of the law if you operate this equipment while over the legal limit.
Proving a BUI
In order to convict you of boating under the influence it has to be proven that you were in fact operating water equipment while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Prosecutors will rely on several factors while trying to prove guilt:
- The manner in which you operated a boat, water skis, aquaplane, jet ski, or similar water equipment.
- Physical appearance such as slurred speech, red/water eyes, and other signs and symptoms of intoxication.
- The results of your field sobriety test.
- The results of a chemical blood or breathalyzer test.
BUI charges can vary depending on the severity of the crime. A BUI with a BAC of 0.08% or higher is the standard boating under the influence charge. Aggravated BUI indicates that you were under the influence of alcohol/drugs and as a result caused injury to another either by breaking the law or operating the equipment in a negligent manner. Manslaughter while intoxicated refers to a negligent or grossly negligent act that caused the death of another.
BUI convictions can be very serious and if convicted you could face jail or prison time and hefty fines. It is also important to note that California has a zero tolerance policy for minors who are charged with BUI. If you are under the age of 21 and have any measurable amount of alcohol in your system you cannot operate a boat, water ski, aquaplane, jet ski, or any other similar water equipment. If you have been charged with BUI it is advised that you consult with an attorney who has experience with California’s BUI laws immediately to discuss the details of your case.
Boating Under the Influence Charges
If you have been charged with driving under the influence, boating under the influence, or a drug crime in a recreational area, you will need the guidance of a criminal defense lawyer who knows the specific laws and regulations of every recreational area in the Central Valley. Gregory W. Fox is an expert Boating Under the Influence Defense Attorney and stays current with California DUI and BUI laws.
If you have been charged with a crime at one of these local recreational areas, contact the Law Office of Gregory W. Fox today:
Offenses that take place at Bass Lake or Millerton Lake fall under the jurisdiction of the Madera County Superior Court, Sierra Division.
Incidents at Shaver Lake will be handled at the Fresno County Superior Court, Clovis Division. If the offense is a felony charge, it will be processed at the Fresno Superior Courthouse Downtown Location.
The Yosemite Office of the Eastern District of California hears misdemeanor and petty offense criminal actions arising in Yosemite National Park.
The best ways to avoid a BUI and other boat crimes
Make Proper Use of Life Jackets
It is required that you carry an approved personal flotation device or life jacket for each person aboard your vessel. It is typically recommended that you wear a life jacket at all times while boating. A majority of drowning victims are the result of boaters not wearing life jackets. Statistics have proven that in the event of an accident, or falling overboard, your chances of survival are significantly higher if you are wearing a life jacket.
Know Your Boat
You should be familiar with your boat when it comes to managing the boat, navigation, safety, handling, anchoring, troubleshooting engine problems, and appropriate emergency response. Knowing your boat inside and out is the foundation of good boating safety practices.
Take a Boating Safety Course
Formal boating education is important to the safety of your passengers and yourself. A boating safety course will teach you the basics of seamanship and help keep you prepared at all times. You can even take an online boater safety course to help educate yourself.
Intoxication on the water is extremely dangerous. Besides the safety risks involved, it is illegal to boat while intoxicated. By operating a vessel on California waters, you have consented to be tested for alcohol and/or drugs if arrested by a law enforcement official. Refusal to submit to testing may result in increased penalties. Boating Under the Influence (BUI) can carry fines, jail or prison time, and an alcohol/drug education program. You may also face possible suspension or revocation of your vehicle driver’s license.
Use Common Sense
One of the most important aspects of boating safety is using common sense. This includes operating your vessel at a safe speed at all times, especially in crowded areas. You should also remain alert at all times and be respectful of buoys and other navigational aids which have been placed there to ensure your safety.
Consider a Free Vessel Safety Check
The US Coast Guard offers free vessel safety checks. As part of the safety check they verify the presence and condition of certain safety equipment required by state and federal regulations. Free of charge, the US Coast Guard will provide a specialist to check out your boat and make helpful boating safety tips and recommendations.
We handle BUI cases
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony in a recreational area, please contact an experienced Fresno Boating Under the Influence Defense Attorney at The Law Office of Gregory W. Fox at (559) 222-5800 for your free consultation. In most instances, appointments will be set for the same business day.