We have lots of great lakes, rivers and waterways here in Georgia, and many people enjoy accessing these natural resources on a hot summer day. For lots of us, water recreation includes boating or water skiing. However, enjoying a couple of drinks while out on the water can lead to an arrest, suspended driving privileges, and a criminal record, all as the result of a simple mistake.

Boating Under the Influence

When out on a boat or jet ski, officials can stop to check any vessel for a safety check. They don't have to have any reasonable suspicion or probable cause that an operator is drunk to inspect the boat. However, if officials suspect an operator is under the influence of alcohol, they can place them under arrest for boating under the influence, or a “BUI.”

Alcohol Limit for a BUI

A lot of people who go out and enjoy boating on a nice summer day enjoy a can of beer or two while out on the water. However, too much alcohol can impair your boating, and the law makes it illegal to be boating with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. Of course, alcohol affects everyone differently, but a BAC of over 0.08%, tested by urine, blood or breath, is a per se violation of the law. However, for boaters under the age of 21, Georgia has a zero tolerance policy, making it illegal to have a BAC of only 0.02%, which for most people is less than half a drink!

Can you refuse a chemical test?

You may not have remembered agreeing that by boating, you would agree to submit to chemical tests, but under Georgia law, you are considered to have given your implied consent to give a sample just by the fact that you are boating on state waters. Of course, you can refuse a test of your blood, breath or urine, but if you do, your boating privileges will be automatically suspended for a full year. In addition, that information can be used against you in court.

BUI Penalties in Georgia

Even though it may seem more harmless than drinking and driving on the road, boating under the influence still carries fines and even the possibility of jail time. A BUI is considered a misdemeanor crime, but after a fourth BUI, the crime becomes a felony, with serious jail time at stake. Any BUI conviction will go on a person's criminal record.

A BUI will also result in suspended boating privileges for a full year. A conviction may require attending a drug or alcohol evaluation and education program. In addition, if you have a child on your boat when you are arrested for a BUI, you may face an additional charge for endangering a child. This has additional fines and jail penalties.

Georgia Boating Under the Influence Defense

Even though it may seem like the evidence is stacked against you, you do have options. There are a number of possible defenses that could be used to get the charges against you reduced or even dismissed entirely. This will depend on your individual case, so you should speak to an experienced, local BUI defense lawyer to discuss your options.

Chemical tests, sobriety tests, and even the arresting officer's testimony can all be challenged, giving you the best chance to put this event behind you, and move on with a clean record.

If you were found to be boating under the influence, give me a call. We will be able to discuss just what happened with your arrest, what tests they made you take, and what they said to you. After answering your questions and concerns, I will then present all your options and possible consequences. We can then decide how best to move forward and win your case.