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California Driving Under The Influence While Operating A Boat

Boating Under the Influence in California

Just as there are DUI (driving under the influence) laws in California, there are also laws against boating under the influence (BUI). These laws make it a crime to operate a boat or personal watercraft (such as a jet ski) while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Federal and state authorities can pull the operator of a boat or other watercraft over, just like on the highway or street, if you are suspected of drunk driving on the water. They may also set up BUI checkpoints on the water, just like roadside DUI checkpoints, to question and check boat and watercraft operators.

The consequences of a California BUI offense are similar to those for aCalifornia DUI offense, and may include steep fines and penalties. At Hoffman & Associates, our experienced criminal defense lawyers understand the laws relating to boating under the influence in California and can aggressively defend you against such charges.

California Boating Laws Covering BUI

With so many rivers, lakes, bays and the beautiful Pacific Ocean as our coast, boating is a popular recreational activity in California. The problem is many people aren't aware of the laws that govern the waterways. Boating under the influence is criminalized under California Harbors and Navigation Code 655. Under this section, there are several laws that regulate boating and drinking:

  • Operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is a misdemeanor and could carry a penalty of one year in the county jail, or a fine not to exceed $1,000, or both.
  • Operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs and causing injury to another person may be ruled a felony by the courts and could carry a penalty of one year in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
  • Operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs and causing death to another person is a felony and could carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
  • A person arrested for operating a motorboat under the influence may be requested to take a blood or breath test to determine blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Refusal to take the test may result in increased penalties (fine, or jail, or both) if convicted. A BAC of .08% presumes intoxication, a BAC of .05% but less than .08% may be used with other evidence to determine intoxication.
  • A person under 21 with a BAC of .01% or more may not operate any motorized vessel, or manipulate water skis, an aquaplane, or similar device.
  • Previous alcohol- or drug-related convictions of vehicle and vessel operators can be used to enhance penalties for persons convicted of subsequent vehicle or vessel violations.
  • A person convicted of operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs must be ordered by the court to take and pass a boating safety course.
  • If you are convicted of operating a vessel while intoxicated, the California Department of Motor Vehicles may suspend or revoke your vehicle driver's license for a period of 6 months to 5 years, depending upon the number and type of vehicle and/or vessel violations accumulated.
An Aggressive Defense Against BUI Charges in California

If you've been charged with BUI, the knowledgeable DUI attorneys at Hoffman & Associates will fight for your rights and defend your good reputation. Defense against a charge of operating a boat under the influence requires an understanding of the complex laws and evidence in such a case. Different factors can affect a boat operator's physical and mental abilities while on the water. These include heat, sun, noise, wind, glare, and the motion of a boat on the water for a long period of time. It's best to hire an attorney who specializes in BUI and DUI law in California.

For more than 30 years, our skilled DUI and Criminal Defense Attorneys have appeared in courtrooms throughout California. We care about protecting your freedom and good record, and offer a phone or office consultation to discuss your boating under the influence case. Contact the offices of Hoffman & Associates today and put our years of valuable experience to work for you.