Boating Under the Influence in California
A lot of people are unaware that boating under the influence in California is a crime and can lead to serious consequences. The California Harbors and Navigation Code Section 655 says:
- No person shall operate any vessel or manipulate water skis, an aquaplane, or a similar device while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or any drug.
- No person shall operate any recreational vessel or manipulate any water skis, aquaplane, or similar device if the person has an alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more in his or her blood. This applies to: motor boats, sailboats with a motor, jet skis, water skiers, tubes being pulled by a motorboat, aquaplanes. Self-propelled boats such as kayaks and canoes are exempt.
- No person shall operate any vessel other than a recreational vessel if the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.04 percent or more in his or her blood. This means you can’t operate a commercial vessel such as fishing boats, sport fishing boats, tour boats or passenger ferries.
Boating Under the Influence in California (BUI) Penalties
The penalties for BUI depend on whether it is your first, second or third BUI in a 10-year period (including driving DUIs). Like other crimes in California, a BUI is considered a “wobbler”. This means that the offense can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, given the level of intoxication and the extent of damage or injury caused.
The penalties for a first BUI offense include:
- Probation for 3 to 5 years
- Losing your drivers license for 4 months or longer
- Up to 6 months in a county jail
- Up to $1,000 in fines, and/or
- 3 or 9 month of court-approved DUI school
The penalties for repeat BUI offenses include:
- Up to 1 year in a country jail
- Up to $1,000 in fines, and/or
- 18 or 30 months of mandatory substance abuse treatment or educational classes
These penalties can be increased if:
- You refuse to submit to a chemical test after you are arrested (you are not required to take field tests before arrest)
- You injure or kill someone as a result of your BUI
- You commit a hit-and-run, or
- You have a prior conviction (within the last 7 years) for either a DUI or BUI
An aggravated crime increases its guilt or enormity, usually with injurious consequences. This is a far more serious charge that requires proof that you were under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, and while operating a marine craft, and you broke a law some other way (in addition to boating under the influence), or otherwise drove the vehicle in a negligent manner and caused injury or damage.
There are many options of defenses that a qualified attorney can provide for you if you faced with a boating under the influence. This include:
- You were not under the influence
- You were just tired from being in the sun and water
- Your BAC chemical test was wrong. Or, your field sobriety test was improperly administered. (such as being on a wet or uneven surface)
- Illegal stop or search
- Failure to read you your Miranda rights, and/or
- Failure to give clear procedures and requirements during tests
How Can Boaters Stay Safe on the Water?
The U.S. Coast Guard and local law enforcement agencies throughout California routinely patrol the region’s waters to look for boaters who are under the influence and other threats to public safety. Patrols are increased on weekends and holidays.
The Coast Guard also provides the following basic safety suggestions to everyone who owns or operates any boat or watercraft:
- Never drink alcohol before you operate a boat or any watercraft. Alcohol reduces a person’s ability to see, hear and react to danger, and it also impairs judgment.
- Always carry a fire extinguisher, flares, and a marine-band radio.
- Always carry and use life jackets.
- Always check a weather forecast before boating.
Every boater convicted of BUI in California must pass a boating safety course approved by California’s Department of Boating and Waterways.
We’re Here to Help
If you or your loved one has been arrested and charged with a BUI in California, exercise your constitutional rights and consult with a criminal defense lawyer experienced in boating under the influence cases.
Need a Criminal Defense Attorney? CALL NOW: 310-274-6529
Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Criminal Defense Attorney who has over 18 years of practice defending a variety of criminal cases.