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California DUI Laws Apply to Boaters, Not Just Drivers

A 7-year-old girl was killed over Memorial Weekend as she swam in the Colorado River near San Bernardino County. According to sheriffs, she was hit by a boat with an allegedly drunk man at the helm. The girl was taken to a nearby hospital where she later died from her injuries.

This tragedy reminds us that the summer season is not void of responsibility. Boats, just like cars and other motor vehicles, must be driven with care. California has DUI laws for the water as well as on our roads.

If you are arrested for operating any vehicle while under the influence, your first call should be to a strong defense team like Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC.

Boating Under the Influence (BUI) Laws in California

The statutes pertaining to operating a vessel can be found in Harbor and Navigation Code (HNC) 655. The law states that no person shall operate boats, jet skis, and other watercraft in a “reckless or negligent manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of another person.

Other stipulations in the law include the following:

  • No person shall operate any vessel or similar device while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, any drug, or the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and any drug.
  • No person shall operate any recreational vessel or similar device if the person has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08%t or more in their blood. This is the same BAC limit for DUI on California roadways.
  • No person shall operate any commercial vessel with a BAC of 0.04% or more in their blood.
  • No person shall operate any vessel or a similar device who is addicted to the use of any drug.
  • No person shall operate any vessel or a similar device while under the influence of drugs and alcohol and commit an act forbidden by law, or neglect any duty imposed by law in the use of the vessel, causing bodily injury to any person other than themselves.

Blood Alcohol Content Isn’t the Only Factor in BUI Arrest

Anyone registering a BAC of .08% or higher within three hours of the offense is presumed to be under the influence of alcohol. BAC is determined by a chemical test of the person’s blood, breath, or urine. While BAC is an important factor in BUI cases, it’s not the only evidence needed for an arrest.

A law enforcement officer who directly observed the offense can be used to make an arrest. An officer’s first-hand information is not the only additional grounds that can lead to an arrest. A BAC between .05% and .08% can still be charged with BUI if other evidence shows they were the influence at the time of the offense. Anyone with a BAC of .05% or less is presumed to not be under the influence of alcohol.

Consequences of a BUI Conviction

California BUI penalties are the same as vehicular DUI and depend on the circumstances and whether there are prior convictions (BUI or DUI).

The consequences for a first and repeat-offense BUI are:

First BUI Offense: For a first BUI, penalties are usually up to six months in jail and/or $1,000 in fines. First-time offense penalties also apply if all prior DUI and/or BUI convictions were more than seven years ago.

Second BUI Offense: Penalties include mandatory alcohol treatment, a minimum of 96 hours in jail (up to one year), and/or fines up to $1,000.

Additional offenses can mean up to four years in prison.

Just like DUI, a BUI can lead to the suspension of your driver’s license and ignition interlock device use on your car. Most BUIs are misdemeanors but can be felonies depending on the specifics. A BUI murder, like what is suspected in the case described earlier, can carry between 15 years and life in state prison.

Facing DUI or BUI charges? Contact us right away. Call (949) 251-0330. We’re available to take your call 24/7.