Boating Under the Influence on Lake Allatoona

Georgia law makes it a crime to operate a boat or other moving water vessel (for example, a jet ski) under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination on a public waterway. The legal blood alcohol content for someone over 21 is the same as it is for a car: .08. The legal limit for someone under 21 is .02. Even if you are under the legal limit, you can be charged with BIU less safe, meaning that you were under the influence to the extent it was less safe to operate the vessel. If you have a child under 14 on board, you will also be charged with the separate crime of child endangerment. If you get a BUI after a boating accident, you may also be charged with serious injury by vessel or homicide by vessel.

There are two important differences between boating under the influence and driving under the influence. The first is that officers don’t need probable cause to stop your boat. Officers are allowed to stop and board any vessel operating on a public waterway to perform safety checks. If officers suspect that you are impaired, they can ask you to perform field sobriety tests and read you the implied consent law. Implied consent means that your ability to operate a vessel is conditioned on you submitting to chemical tests of your blood, breath, or urine. If you refuse testing or your BAC is above .08, your license to operate a vessel may be suspended for a minimum of one year. That brings us to the second important difference between a BUI and a DUI. For a DUI you have 30 days from the date of arrest to submit an appeal of your license suspension to DDS. You only have 10 days to file the suspension appeal for a BUI and it must be submitted to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. A suspension of your boating license or conviction of BUI does not affect your ability to drive a car.

The penalties for the first conviction of BUI are a fine between $300 and $1,000; a period of incarceration of 10 days to 12 months but, the time to serve can be suspended, stayed, or probated except if your BAC is over .08 then you must serve a minimum of 24 hours; a minimum of 40 hours of community service; completion of a DUI alcohol or drug risk reduction program; and a clinical drug and alcohol evaluation and complete any recommended treatment. The penalties increase with each BUI conviction.

If you or a loved one has been charged with boating under the influence it is important to have a knowledgeable advocate. Give us a call at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.