Boating Under the Influence

Harbors & Navigation Code 655 under California law outlines the offense of Boating or operating a boat Under the Influence. While you are intoxicated with drugs or alcohol, it is unlawful to operate any vessel. You are intoxicated if your blood alcohol content exceeds the legal limit of 0.08%. In case you are charged with Boating Under the Influence in Los Angeles or San Fernando Valley, get in touch with us at The Law Offices of Ross Howell Sobel.

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Proving Intoxication

You can be guilty of boating Under the Influence if you operate a vessel; you manipulate a water ski, an aquaplane, or other similar devices Under the Influence. You could either be intoxicated with alcohol, drugs, or both drugs and alcohol. Consumption of drugs or alcohol could impair your physical or mental abilities. While impaired, you can no longer handle a boat with the care or caution of a sober individual.

While accusing you of this crime, the prosecutor could point out certain signs that indicated that you were intoxicated. How you operated the vessel could indicate intoxication; dangerously operating a vessel is a sign of intoxication. Your physical/bodily appearance could also reveal signs of intoxication, including slurred speech, watery or red eyes, or an unsteady gait. The way you perform in the field sobriety tests could also reveal intoxication. The results of your blood test or breath test could also reveal intoxication.

If the results of a chemical test reveal that your BAC was below 0.05%, then you were not intoxicated. However, despite recording low BAC limits, the prosecutor could still bring forward other facts to prove that you were intoxicated. There would be no presumption if your BAC results were ranging from 0.05 to 0.08. However, if your BAC was above 0.08%, the presumption is that you were intoxicated. However, your attorney can still debut this presumption of intoxication by coming up with valid defenses.

BAC of 0.08 or More

You could violate the Harbors & Navigation Code 655 (c) if you handle a boat or vessel with a BAC of 0.08 or more. The law of Boating under the influence does not only apply to boats but also other vessels like aquaplanes and water skis. You could be convicted of Boating Under the Influence even if your ability to handle/operate the water vessel is not impaired. The charges will apply if your blood alcohol content exceeds 0.08%.

BAC of 0.04 or Above for Commercial Boating

According to Harbors & Navigation Code 655 (d), you can get charges for Boating Under the Influence if you operate a commercial boat or vessel with a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.04% or above.  This commercial boating law could apply to people who operate sport fishing boats, fishing boats, passenger ferries, and tour boats. Commercial boat operators face tougher charges for Boating Under the Influence, just like in the case of commercial drivers.  For instance, if your job involves taking tourists to deep-sea tours or fishing, you should never operate your boat if your BAC is 0.04 or above.

Causing Injuries for Boating Under the Influence

Under California law, you could face aggravated Boating under influence charges if you cause injuries to another person while operating a boat under the influence. The California Harbors & Navigation Code 655(f) outlines the offense of aggravated Boating under the influence.  To charge you with this offense, the prosecutor will have to prove that:

  • You manipulated or operated a boat, aquaplane, or another water vessel
  • You did so Under the Influence with alcohol, drugs, or both drugs and alcohol
  • You did an act prohibited by the law, or you neglected a duty set by the law while operating the water vessel
  • Your negligence or engagement in an illegal activity led to the injury or another individual other than you

It is important to note that the aggravated charges for Boating Under the Influence could apply even if you only cause a slight injury to another person. You do not have to inflict great bodily injuries on another person for the charges to apply. However, to charge you with aggravated Boating under the influence, the prosecutor has to show that you engaged in something unlawful while operating the vessel, and this unlawful action led to the injuries.  Operating your boat randomly and an unexpected occurrence of an injury is not enough to warrant aggravated charges.

Penalties for Boating Under the Influence

The consequences for boating Under the Influence in California will depend on several factors, including the section of the Boating under influence law you have violated. The charges will also depend on whether you have committed the first or the subsequent offense.

If you are guilty of the first offense of Boating Under the Influence other than aggravated BUI, the offense is a misdemeanor. The likely consequences for misdemeanor charges are summary or misdemeanor probation. As a condition of probation, you will have to take part in DUI School. You could also be subject to a jail time sentence of up to 6 months in California county jail. You could also be subject to a fine that does not exceed $1,000.

When you are guilty of the second offense of Boating under the influence other than enhanced/aggravated Boating under the influence, the penalties will increase. You would face a higher penalty if you had an intoxication conviction within the past seven years. You will be a second offender if you have a prior conviction of Boating under the Influence, DUI under California VC 23152 (a), DUI resulting in injuries under California law VC 23153, Manslaughter resulting from BUI under PC 192.5 and Gross vehicular manslaughter Under the Influence. In case you have one or more of the mentioned convictions in your record, a misdemeanor offense of Boating under the influence will have a county jail sentence of up to 1 year. 

Aggravated BUI Penalties

The crime of aggravated BUI is either a felony or a misdemeanor. The prosecutor considers the facts of your case and criminal record while deciding on how to treat the crime.

If the offense is a misdemeanor aggravated BUI, you will have to serve minimum jail time for 90 days and up to 1 year in California county jail. The court could also subject you to a minimum fine of $250 and a maximum fine of $5,000.

In case the prosecutor considers the offense a felony, a likely sentence will be imprisonment of 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in county jail. If the court grants you a felony or misdemeanor probation and you are a repeat offender, you will have to spend a minimum of 5 days in jail in California and meet a minimum fine of $250 as conditions for probation.

If the court grants you probation after committing the offense of boating under the influence causing injury, yet you have a previous conviction within seven years for DUI offense, boating under the influence causing injury, and vehicular manslaughter, you will have to serve a minimum of 90 days in jail. You also must pay a minimum fine of $250 as a requirement for probation.

Refusing to Take a Chemical Test

A police officer would request you to take a chemical test if he/she has a viable cause to assume that you were handling/operating a boat or an aquaplane Under the Influence. An officer would request you to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test.  If you do not submit to the test but later get a conviction for Boating Under the Influence, you could be subject to harsher penalties. The judge could impose a higher penalty or a more extended jail sentence; however, the consequences will not exceed the set maximums.

A police officer has the right to request DUI testing only if the boat you were operating is mechanically propelled or a sailboat that has a motor. You do not have to submit to the test while operating a vessel that has no motor, including a non-motorized sailboat, canoe, kayak, or Dinghies.

Legal Defenses

Boating Under the Influence is almost similar to other DUI offenses under California law. Your attorney can present several legal defenses to help fight the charges.

Your attorney can fight Boating Under the Influence charges by pointing out you did not exceed the legal BAC level.  For instance, if the prosecutor observed your boating pattern and concluded that you were intoxicated, you can assert that you were distracted or that you made a miscalculation.  Sober individuals engage in reckless conduct regularly.

You can also state that your red and watery eyes were because of spending the day in the water or on the sun. You could blame your poor results on field sobriety tests on exhaustion or dehydration.

If you feel that the peace officers made an illegal stop without probable cause, you can fight the charges based on a violation of your Fourth Amendment to the U.S. constitutional rights.

Find a Competent Attorney Near Me

Despite the adverse consequences of Boating Under the Influence under California law, there is a way out. You can fight the charges with the help of a competent attorney. If you are seeking legal services in San Fernando Valley & Los Angeles, call The Law Offices of Ross Howell Sobel at 818-582-2350 to speak to a competent attorney.

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