Drunk on a Boat: Don’t Get a BUI This Summer

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Summer is underway, and South Carolinians and thousands of visitors are on the waterways, enjoying our beautiful state. Here in the Lowcountry, there’s no shortage of great spots to take a boat or jet ski out on the water. But if you’re operating a watercraft, you had better stay sober! It’s a crime to boat under the influence.  

With offices located conveniently in Charleston, North Charleston, and Walterboro, the David Aylor Law Offices makes it easy for you to get the help you need, when you need it. If you’re charged with Boating Under the Influence (BUI) this summer, count on our dedicated and experienced criminal defense attorneys to help with your case.

What is Boating Under the Influence?

can I get a dui on a boat?
You can actually get a BUI, boating under the influence, in Charleston.

South Carolina law makes it illegal to operate any of the following while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (or any combination thereof):

  • Motorboats of any kind
  • Jet skis
  • Sailboats

To qualify as “under the influence,” you must be operating under such an impairment that your abilities are “materially and appreciably impaired.”  Importantly, a breathalyzer test is not required for you to be convicted. Breath and blood tests are merely a significant form of evidence. Other things may be considered as well, such as your behavior, law enforcement observations and video or audio recordings.

When Is Impairment Presumed?

Although law enforcement officers don’t need breath or blood tests to get a conviction, it helps. If your blood alcohol content (BAC) is above the legal limit of 0.08 percent, your impairment is presumed. On the other hand, if your BAC is 0.05 percent or less, you can be presumed not under the influence. So here’s how this breaks down:

  • BAC > 0.08 percent  — Boater is presumed under the influence
  • BAC 0.05 – 0.08 percent — No presumptions. It’s up to the jury hearing the case
  • BAC < 0.05 percent — Boater is presumed not under the influence

What is the Effect of a Presumption?

Remember, in the law, a presumption is just that – something a court tells the jury to “presume.” However, these are rebuttable. So, just because you are presumed impaired, you have a right to prove otherwise. By the same token, even though you are presumed not under the influence, a prosecutor can still introduce other evidence to rebut this presumption.

Penalties for BUI

While every case is unique, in general, these are the penalties you could face for BUI. Subsequent offenses are considered back for 10 years.

First Offense:

  • Up to $200 fine
  • 48 hours in jail
  • Six-month boating suspension

Second Offense:  

  • Up to $1,000 fine
  • 48 hours in jail
  • One full year of boating suspension

Third Offense:      

  • Up to $6,000 fine
  • 60 days to three years in jail
  • Three-year boating suspension

Hiring a BUI Lawyer in Charleston

While we don’t want anyone to drink and boat this summer, we know it’s going to happen. Sadly, if someone gets hurt while you are boating under the influence, your small offense could quickly become a serious misdemeanor or even a felony in some cases. Local marine patrol, Coast Guard, and Conservation Officers are on the lookout for drunk boaters. Have a plan, have a designated operator who stays sober at all times, and have a great time. If you do get busted for BUI, call David Aylor Law Offices for help. Don’t assume you have no options; there may be ways to get your charges reduced or even dismissed. Call today to speak with an attorney.

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