Written by attorney Jonathan David Rands

Boating Under the Influence and Penalties

Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is a criminal offense and is very similar to a DUI. Like any criminal charge, if you are arrested for BUI, you will have to go to court. While the stakes are often lower than those in a DUI charge, there will be severe consequences if convicted.

Depending on what state you're in, a BUI case typically involves the use of a breath test machine and sobriety tests to help the State make their case against you. Therefore your attorney should be well versed in those and ready to reveal their limitations. Likewise your lawyer should be very familiar with the breath test machine used in their state. Having such an attorney will give you the best chance to preserve your rights and compel a fair resolution of the charge against you.

Differences compared to DUI penalties

Although a BUI conviction often carries the same penalties as those for a DUI, this isn't always the case. For example, a BUI conviction isn’t always accompanied by jail or fines. It often does not carry any driver licensing consequences. As a result, you don’t necessarily lose your license if you are arrested for or are convicted of BUI; the decision of what range of penalties to exact is often left to the judge.

A BUI charge or conviction also does not automatically result in any mandatory sentence that requires you to have an ignition interlock device (IID) or Ignition Interlock License (IIL) in either your boat or your car. If you’re convicted of BUI the judge can order the use of one of these devices at their discretion, but there is no statutory requirement as there is in DUI convictions.

If you are arrested for BUI and you refuse a breath or blood test there is no consequence to your driver’s license. In the future, if you find yourself in a situation where a law enforcement officer asks you perform sobriety tests or a breath test (portable or at the stationhouse), refusing to take them will not cause you any legal harm.

While BUI seems like a lesser crime compared to DUI, a judge can sentence you to many of the same penalties as DUI convictions. Similarly, a BUI conviction will remain on your record for several years if you’re convicted. If you are charged with the operation of a vehicle while under the influence you should get an experienced attorney and do everything possible to avoid a conviction.

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