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San Diego Boating Under the Influence Attorney

Boating Under the Influence in San Diego, California

When boating along Lake Murray, Lake Cuyamaca, Lake Hodges, or any of the other beautiful waterways that help form the landscape of San Diego, it can be tempting to have a drink or two. This is not illegal in California and drinking while boating is a socially acceptable practice.

But just as a person who has had too many drinks is not allowed behind the wheel of a car, a person who is intoxicated or impaired is not allowed to drive a boat. The question then becomes how much is too much?

California BUI Law

In California, it is against the law to operate any vessel or boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This includes watercraft such as jet skis. It is also illegal for any person to operate a recreational vessel with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, the same as for driving a motor vehicle. When it is a commercial boat or vessel, the legal BAC level drops to just 0.04%. Anytime someone injures another person while operating a boat under the influence, the penalties become more severe.

The one area in which California’s BUI laws differ from the state’s DUI laws is that open containers of alcohol are allowed on boats. It is illegal in California to drive a vehicle with any open containers of alcohol, but not when those open containers are on a boat and the operator is not under the influence.

Penalties for BUIs in California

The penalties after being charged with a BUI in California vary depending on the situation and the boat operator’s prior history of BUIs, if any. In most cases, a BUI is considered a misdemeanor with a fine up to $1,000 and anywhere from six months to one year in county jail.

When a person has been injured as a result of someone being under the influence of alcohol or drugs while operating a boat, the penalties are much more serious. Under California’s wobbler law, these cases can be considered either a misdemeanor or a felony. If the boat operator is convicted of a felony, he faces anywhere from sixteen months to three years in jail. The injured person can also file a personal injury claim, forcing the boat operator to pay compensation for any injuries or damages.

Defenses for BUIs in California

There are two main defenses people may use if charged with boating under the influence in California.

The first is that they may not actually have been under the influence at all. This defense is most helpful when a field sobriety test has been administered and the boat operator’s BAC was below the legal limit of 0.08%. While an officer can still charge someone with a BUI under these conditions if the operator was acting "unreasonably," it does not necessarily mean that the boat operator was under the influence.

The second defense is that the stop of the boat by authorities was unlawful; they had no probable cause. Same as when they are on the road, police officers and other authorities may not stop a boat for no reason. They must suspect that the boat was doing something illegal, even if that illegal activity is not boating under the influence. When a boat has been unlawfully stopped, the entire case may be dismissed.

San Diego and the surrounding area have some of the best waterways for taking advantage of the sun and scenery - and a BUI charge can take away a person’s ability to enjoy them. If you have been charged with BUI and want the best defense possible, contact JD Law at (760) 630-2000 as soon as possible. Attorney James N. Dicks is a board-certified criminal defense specialist. He will work hard to get you back out on the water in no time.

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James N. Dicks

About James N. Dicks

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