There are many days of the year where the weather in Georgia is nice enough to head out to the beach or the lake for the day. While there, many people choose to participate in a number of different recreational activities including boating, jet skiing, water skiing, and surfing. It is important to be aware that, when operating any watercraft, similar rules apply to watercraft operators that apply to drivers operating a motor vehicle -- namely, that you cannot do so while intoxicated. A conviction for boating while under the influence can lead to consequences that are just as severe as the consequences for driving under the influence and can include things like a hefty fine or time behind bars.
Don't take boating under the influence charges lightly. If you have been charged with this offense, please do not hesitate to contact Forsyth County DUI Lawyer Richard Lawson today.
Boating Under The Influence In Georgia
Under the law in Georgia, "No person shall operate, navigate, steer, or drive any moving vessel, or be in actual physical control of any moving vessel, nor shall any person manipulate any moving water skis, moving aquaplane, moving surfboard, or similar moving device while . . . t]e person's alcohol concentration is 0.08 grams or more at any time within three hours after such operating, navigating, steering, driving, manipulating, or being in actual physical control of a moving vessel, moving water skis, moving aquaplane, moving surfboard, or similar moving device from alcohol consumed before such operating, navigating, steering, driving, manipulating, or being in actual physical control ended." O.C.G.A. § 52-7-12.
Some Things To Note
It is important to be aware that a person can also be charged with boating under the influence while operating a vehicle or watercraft other than a boat. These other water crafts can include:
- Motor Boats
- Jet Skis
- Water Skis
Another thing that it is important to be aware of is that Georgia's BUI laws only apply to public waterways. Thus, they do not normally apply to bodies of water like private lakes. In addition, after an arrest, as with a DUI, an individual has a limited time to request an administrative hearing in order to contest the suspension of his or her boating privileges.
Legal BAC Limit When Operating A Water Craft
There are different ways that a person can end up facing a charge of boating under the influence. These are discussed in more detail below:
BAC Over 0.08:
In Georgia, since May 2013, the 'per se' intoxication level for boating under the influence cases was changed to be the same as the level for DUI cases. The current law states that if a boat or other watercraft operator has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher, that operator is presumed to be too intoxicated to safely operate his or her craft.
BAC Under 0.08:
In addition to the 'per se' intoxication level, an individual can also face BUI charges if he or she is operating a watercraft while "[u]nder the influence of alcohol [or drugs] to the extent that it is less safe for the person to operate, navigate, steer, drive, manipulate, or be in actual physical control of a moving vessel, moving water skis, moving aquaplane, moving surfboard, or similar moving device." O.C.G.A. § 52-7-12. This means that even if an individual's BAC is not at the legal limit he or she can still be charged with boating under the influence.
Under 21 Years Of Age:
For those who are under the age of 21, the presumptive intoxication level is considerably lower. If an individual is not of legal drinking age and has a blood alcohol level of 0.02 or more than that individual can face BUI charges.
Implied Consent And Boating
In Georgia, similar to driving laws, there is an implied consent law for watercraft operators. The law states, in pertinent part:
The State of Georgia considers that persons who are under the influence of alcohol, toxic vapors, or drugs while operating a vessel on the waters of this state constitute a direct and immediate threat to the welfare and safety of the general public. Therefore, any person who operates a vessel upon the waters of this state shall be deemed to have given consent, subject to subsection (c) of this Code section, to a chemical test or tests of his or her blood, breath, or urine or other bodily substance for the purpose of determining the alcoholic or drug content of his or her blood if arrested for any offense arising out of acts alleged to have been committed while the person was operating, navigating, steering, driving, manipulating, or in actual physical control of a moving vessel, moving water skis, moving aquaplane, moving surfboard, or similar moving device while under the influence of alcohol, toxic vapors, or any drug. O.C.G.A. § 52-7-12.
Essentially, what this means is that if a law enforcement officer requests a person who has been operating a boat or other watercraft to submit to a breath test, then there can be consequences for refusing to comply with that request. These consequences can include things like having the refusal used as evidence against them at trial or having their boating privileges suspended.
Penalties For BUI
A first BUI conviction is typically considered a misdemeanor in Georgia. The possible penalties for this offense can include:
- A fine ranging from $300-$1,000
- Time in jail time that could be as little as 10 days or up to 12 months. However, the entire jail sentence can be suspended at the discretion of the judge. However, if a person was convicted of BUI with a BAC of 0.08 or higher, the judge can "suspend, stay, or probate all but 24 hours of any term of imprisonment." O.C.G.A. § 52-7-12.
- 40 hours of community service for those over 21; 20 hours of community service for those under the age of 21
- Participation in a DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program as well as a clinical evaluation and any treatment program if such a program is recommended
- Probation for up to 12 months
In addition to criminal consequences, a person convicted of boating under the influence may have his or her boating privileges suspended for up to one year.
As a note, these are just the consequences of a first BUI offense. Subsequent convictions can carry greater penalties including bigger fines and longer jail sentences.
Contact A Georgia BUI Lawyer
If you or someone you know has been charged with boating under the influence in the State of Georgia, please do not hesitate to contact Forsyth County DUI Attorney Richard Lawson today. You can reach our office by calling (404) 816-4440 or contact us online