The criminal charge of Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is probably not something that comes to people’s minds as quickly as the dangers of getting a DUI, and therefore boaters often take fewer precautions to avoid this potential problem. When you’re in a boat, there’s a tendency to have a false sense of security that you are free from the regulations of society. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. When you operate a vessel, you are held to the same standards of sobriety as someone who is driving a car: a .08 alcohol level and a 5.0 ng/ml THC level. A BUI is a gross misdemeanor, which carries with it a maximum penalty of 364 days of jail and a $5,000 fine, so it is a serious charge. If there is not a breath or blood test, the state can also try to move forward by showing that you were “affected by” alcohol and/or drugs, so refusing tests won’t necessarily get you off, although it can be something to consider. The situation can become even more serious if you get into an accident while driving a boat while impaired or god forbid, you get into an accident causing an injury to someone else. There are a lot of reasons why one may need an attorney after hitting the waters with a cooler full of drinks.
There are a couple of differences between BUI’s and DUI’s that are important to note as well. First, while a conviction to DUI would carry with it certain mandatory minimum jail times, fines, and license suspensions, those mandatory minimums do not exist for BUI’s. If convicted of a BUI, The judge would essentially be able to sentence you anywhere up to the maximum penalty but technically does not have to impose any jail time or fine. The judge could still make you undergo alcohol/drug treatment as well. Second, there is no DOL administrative hearing for a BUI. This secondary aspect of challenging a DUI is fought through the Department of Licensing but does not exist in the BUI context, so there will essentially only be one battle: the criminal court.
Another important aspect of a BUI is that it is considered a “prior offense” for sentencing purposes if you receive a DUI after your BUI conviction. This can have severe consequences even if you don’t expect to be pulled over for a DUI later, as you may find that your mandatory minimums on your DUI are suddenly 30 or 45 days in jail (or higher) merely because you have a prior BUI on your record.
For all these reasons, a BUI is something to take seriously for both its current and potential future implications on your life and freedoms. If you find yourself in trouble for a BUI or any type of boating accident, feel free to contact personal injury lawyers in Everett at Russell & Hill, and we’ll help right the ship.