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Boating Under the Influence (BUI) and Field Sobriety Tests (FST's) in South Carolina

In South Carolina, one of the responsibilities of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is to enforce boating under the influence laws. Part of their training is derived from standards set forth by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA). Due to the difficulty in administering standard field sobriety testing on the water, certain agencies such as DNR administer what is called the Afloat Test Battery, which includes reciting the ABC’s, counting backwards from 25 to 1, a finger dexterity test, a “palm pat" test, and a “touch finger to nose" test.

Unlike driving under the influence (DUI), the BUI laws do not require the arresting officer to video tape the suspect, so it can be more difficult to defend an innocent person charged with BUI because evidence is often limited to the officer’s testimony of the events, which may or may not be accurate and is always biased because the officer is attempting to obtain a conviction. Merely allowing a client to give a different story may not be enough in a jury’s eyes. Therefore, it is important for your lawyer to be familiar with the Afloat Test Battery to successfully attack the administration and results of the FST’s administered on the water. Oftentimes, the officer makes many mistakes which compromise the validity of the tests.

Challenging the validity of field sobriety testing is one of many, yet crucial, elements in competently defending DUI’s and BUI’s.

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