It is illegal to drive any motorized vehicle on a body of water under the influence of alcohol. This means people driving boats and other motorized vehicles have to take the same care and caution under Navigation Code 655. People do drive vehicles on the roadway in California.
If you are caught driving a boat, for example, in a body of water, and your blood alcohol level is a .08 or greater, or you have drugs or alcohol in your system. It is determined through a field sobriety test and other means that you cannot safely operate the boat; you can be charged with a DUI just like if you were driving a vehicle.
Where I see these boat-related driving under the influence cases filed is usually on holidays believe-it-or-not, because people will be in a crowded lake, and the sheriffs will put their boat in there because they realize people are drinking. There's a lot of people there.
You see that yellow sheriff boat; you had a better look out because you are driving any motorized vehicle inside the water. They catch you being a .08 or greater or being under the influence – even if you're smoking marijuana or using any drugs – in Los Angeles County, they're going to prosecute that case as a BUI – boating under the influence.
If you are driving some other boat that is not motorized like a canoe, or some boat with oars, they can't get you boating under the influence for that. But, if you have a motorized vehicle and they catch you, they can charge you with a misdemeanor DUI.
When Can Boating Under the Influence be a Felony?
I've been doing this for twenty-five years, where I see cases being filed as felonies when it comes to boating-relating incidents. It's just like DUI's. If there's an accident on the water – you run over somebody who is skiing and injury them severely – you're going to be charged with a felony boating under the influence.
You might even be charged with assault with a deadly weapon depending on the circumstances. Under that circumstance where you are charged with a felony, you could be looking at prison time and many of your rights being taken away. So, if you've got boating under the influence case and they're using that Navigation Code 655 against you, it's time to find an attorney who's been down this road before, had success, knows what they're doing, and can get you a good result.
Legal Penalties for BUI
The penalties for boating under the influence are very similar to those related to driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. You will usually have to do an alcohol program. There will be a fine involved. There will be a probationary period between three and five years.
Several other different punishments can be meted out depending on the circumstances of the boating incident. If you were driving around recklessly, typically, that's going to be a misdemeanor if you're under the influence.
If, on the other hand, you get in an accident and you hurt somebody – serious injury occurs – then you can expect to be charged with a felony. They take these cases very seriously, and the prosecutors prosecute them just like regular DUI's where people are on the roadway.
For example, if you get convicted of a misdemeanor driving under the influence related to a boat or other motorized vehicle, and then within ten years you pick up another DUI case, they're going to treat that as a second offense – just like if you already have a DUI case and you pick up new boating under the influence case and get convicted of it – they're going to treat it as a second offense.
So, these situations where you're boating on the water – and I think a lot of times people do drink and drive boats, it's common, and believe it or not, the sheriffs realize that so, they'll put their craft in the water and be on the lookout for people who are driving around erratically or dangerously, and they will be checking boats to make sure that everybody is safe – obviously in the interest of nobody getting hurt.
Contact our Office for Help
So, if you've got boating under the influence case in Los Angeles County and you need an attorney, I usually have you come, sit down, we'll go over everything. I encourage you to be honest and give me all the details related to the incident, and then I'll let you know what you're up against.
What you're facing – depending on what circumstances you give me – and obviously, I'm going to let you know what you can do to help me best defend you and what I'm going to do moving forward to try to get you out of the legal system as fast as possible and get your boating under the influence case either reduced down to something other than that or completely dismissed if the prosecutors are unable to prove that you were driving a motorized vehicle with either a .08 or greater or with drugs or alcohol or both in your system and couldn't safely operate that boat.