Under Georgia law, it is illegal to operate a watercraft under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This is known as boating under the influence, or BUI. The State of Georgia considers a boater under the influence to be a “direct and immediate threat to the welfare and safety of the general public.” It includes any person navigating, steering, driving or being in physical control of the vessel. This also includes the use of any vessel, surfboard, jet ski, or even water skis.
Blood Alcohol Limit for BUI
The legal limit for boating under the influence is now the same as for driving under the influence. The legal limit for boating is 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC). As with driving, the operator's BAC will be determined by chemical analysis of the blood, breath or urine. The level of an operator's BAC will determine the presumption of intoxicated boating.
A BAC of greater than 0.05 percent but less than 0.08 does not create a presumption of intoxication, but can be considered with other evidence to show that the operator was under the influence of alcohol. A BAC of 0.08 percent or more creates a presumption that the operator was under the influence of alcohol.
Consent to Submit to Chemical Testing
As with driving in Georgia, boaters on the waters in this state are deemed to have consented to a chemical test to determine whether they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Refusal to submit to a chemical test will automatically render a person's boating privileges suspended for a minimum of one year. Additionally, that refusal may be used against the vessel operator at trial.
Penalties for Boating Under the Influence
A person found guilty of boating under the influence in Georgia will face a misdemeanor charge, with a possible fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail. Boating privileges will be suspended for a year, and an individual may be required to complete an alcohol or drug use course and community service. After a fourth offense, the crime is considered a felony, with a possible five (5) years in jail. Having a conviction for a BUI will appear on a person's criminal record.
Defenses to Boating Under the Influence
Possible defenses to boating under the influence charges will depend on the individual case. An experienced Georgia BUI lawyer will investigate the facts and circumstances of the case, and determine the best defenses for the individual's situation. This could include questioning the arresting officer's observations that the boater was intoxicated, rather than a different reason for appearing to be under the influence.
If you have been charged with boating under the influence, you need the knowledge and courtroom experience of a qualified BUI lawyer. Our skilled lawyers have been representing clients charged with BUI and other alcohol related charges for years, and will defend your boating rights. Call us now to keep your boating license, and your record clean.