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California Boating Under The Influence (BUI) Attorney – Harbors And Navigation Code 655

How Can A BUI Lawyer From My Rights Law Help Me?

Let’s face it. Who doesn’t like to drink? And, when you’re living in the Golden State, who doesn’t enjoy boating now and again? It’s rather hard to beat the refreshing feeling of sipping a martini while you’re on a cruise ship or boating with your colleagues. But as fun as this may sound, drinking and operating a boat is dangerous. It’s arguably more dangerous than drinking and driving. After all, the water surrounds you, and it’ll take a rescue team longer to get to you, especially if it’s dark. Keep reading if you’re wondering what California laws say about boating under the influence.

California Boating Under The Influence Attorney

The DUI defense attorneys at My Rights Law focus on defending the rights of those who are accused of boating under the influence (BUI) and other alcohol-related criminal offenses in California. If you have been charged with BUI, we can help. You should call (888) 702-8882 or contact us by filling out our secure web form for a free consultation with a defense lawyer regarding your case.

What Is Boating Under The Influence?

Just about everyone knows drinking and driving is illegal. You’ve all heard about DUIs. But not everyone has heard of boating under the influence (BUI). In short, you’re not allowed to operate any vehicle while you’re drunk. Boats are vehicles. Thus, an officer may charge you with a BUI if your BAC is 0.08 or higher and you’re driving a motorboat, sailboat jet ski, cruise ship, etc. But this law doesn’t only apply to vehicles with propellers and motors. You can’t drink and operate canoes and kayaks either.

You should be aware that this California law looks at intoxication and boating far more seriously if you’re operating a commercial vehicle. Commercial vehicles are vehicles, such as ferries and tour boats. In this case, your BAC shouldn’t surpass 0.04. That’s because you’re putting far more people in peril, and the potential for catastrophic harm is significantly greater.

What Are The Penalties For BUI?

If the state has charged you with a BUI offense, you should immediately consult experienced BUI criminal defense attorneys. A prosecutor will not waste any time in building a case against you. Furthermore, a BUI offense can have quite serious consequences.[1] You should also know that the penalties for a BUI vary depending on whether you caused bodily injury or death to someone. Because the penalties can differ significantly, we’ll cover them step by step.

Misdemeanor BUI

A judge or jury can find you guilty of a misdemeanor BUI if your BAC is 0.08 or 0.04 (for commercial boats). If so, you’ll likely face up to six months in county jail, pay up to a $1,000 fine, or both. If this is your second offense within seven years, and you get convicted, then you can face up to one year in jail. Also, you’ll probably have to complete a BUI course.[2]

If you caused bodily injury to someone while boating under the influence, it’s at the prosecutor’s discretion whether to charge you with a misdemeanor or felony. If it’s a misdemeanor, the punishment is serving anywhere from 90 days to one year in jail, paying anywhere from $250 to $5,000, or both.

Felony BUI

A judge or jury could find you guilty of a felony BUI if someone died as a result of your BUI.[3] Otherwise, a prosecutor could charge you with a felony if someone suffered any bodily harm because of your criminal actions, such as a bruise or sprained ankle.[4] This conviction comes with a penalty of up to ten years behind prison bars.

Driver’s License Suspension

Perhaps you considered this intuitively, or maybe this comes as a shock, but the DMV can suspend your driver’s license if you’re convicted of boating under the influence. As we said before, boats are vehicles. Boating under the influence is no different than driving under the influence. In this case, you will have ten days to request a DMV hearing to fight your BUI ticket from the time of the arrest. If you fail to make this request, your license will be suspended automatically after 30 days from when an officer stopped you. Otherwise, if a judge or jury convicts you of this criminal charge, the judge will notify the DMV, and it will suspend your driver’s license.

Usually, the DMV suspends your driver’s license for four or more months; you’ll get points against your license; you’ll have to complete a drinking-while-operating-a-vehicle program. Not to mention, you’ll have to pay $125 to get your license reinstated. Consider how difficult getting around will be if the DMV suspends your license. Driving on a suspended license may lead to the DMV revoking your license for a year or more, which is bound to impact your career goals and daily activities negatively.

What Are Viable Defenses For Boating Under The Influence?

Fortunately, experienced California criminal defense attorneys can always think of sensible arguments to defend you. Experienced BUI defense attorneys know the law. Even before hearing the particulars of your case, they’ll know what to look for immediately. While it is true that you should always consult an attorney so that they can better understand the nature of your charge, these defenses are commonly used to fight BUI cases.

Fourth Amendment Violation

You can often argue that the arresting officer violated your fourth amendment rights. The Constitution guarantees that no one should be allowed to search your body or go through your property unless that person has a warrant. Before officers can get a warrant, they must show probable cause. Officers have probable cause when they can point to specific facts that would lead any reasonable, rational person to believe a crime has occurred or is about to occur. Courts allow officers to point to their experiences overseeing BUI crimes to justify their beliefs. Granted, there are exceptions to this constitutional protection.[5]

If an exception doesn’t apply, a judge must throw out any evidence unlawfully obtained from the illegal search and seizure. For example, let’s suppose that you just got your boating license two months ago. You took a boat out with some friends. Unfortunately, you forget a few things and begin making rookie mistakes. The next thing you know, a siren goes off, and a group of officers come by on a patrol boat and stop you. They search your boat and find drug paraphernalia below deck. They arrest and charge you with boating under the influence. Most likely, you can get this evidence tossed out.

You see, in this case, anyone—including perfectly sober people—can make boating errors. You could have been delirious from dehydration for all that the officers knew. Furthermore, nothing in this hypothetical suggests that an exigent circumstance (i.e., justification for officers not having time to obtain a warrant) was present. Not to mention, it’s highly arguable that they can’t point to a reason as to why they went below deck to search for anything when you were above deck operating the boat. Typically, they can only search you and your immediate vicinity.

Other defenses might be that the officers administered a faulty breathalyzer test or didn’t have reasonable suspicion.

Related charges: Underage DUI, Refusing a field sobriety test

Call A My Rights Law BUI Lawyer Today

There’s no shortage of reasons as to why you might be operating a boat poorly. For example, there might be bad weather. Whatever the reason, it’s always in your best interest to speak with an attorney to know what your best defenses are moving forward. That’s where My Rights Law comes in. We have decades in the game, and we’ve helped countless California residents beat or reduce their BUI charge, so don’t wait. Call us now for a free consultation at (888) 702-8882 or contact us through our secure web form.

FOOTNOTES
[1] Refer to Harbors and Navigation Code Section 668.
[2] Refer to Harbors and Navigation Code Section 655(h)-(i).
[3] Refer to Harbors and Navigation Code Section 655.
[4] Refer to People v. Payne, No. C086844 (Cal. Ct. App. Oct. 27, 2021).
[5] Refer to  Terry v. Ohio (1968) 392 U.S. 1 at 20.

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