There's nothing like the feel of the sun on your face and the wind at your back while out on the water in your boat. Boating can be an excellent way to spend time with friends and family. Whether you prefer to tour the lake on the pontoon boat or race your friends on a personal watercraft, boating is, for many families, a way of life. However, boating while under the influence (BUI) of drugs or alcohol can have a devastating effect on your summer plans. It is important to understand the extent of the law when it comes to BUI so that you can protect yourself and your family.
Understanding Georgia's Definition of “Boating” in BUI Cases
Regardless of your personal definition of “boating,” for BUI purposes, the laws in Georgia are quite expansive. Obviously, if you are in a speed boat, fishing boat, or pontoon, you can be charged with BUI if the other elements of the case are met. However, you may be surprised to know Georgia BUI law also covers the following:
- Personal watercrafts
- Water skis
- Similar vessels
If you are operating a boat or any of the above-listed vessels, you could be charged with a BUI if you meet the other elements.
Understanding Georgia's Definition of “Operating” in BUI Cases
Once the government establishes you were actually in something legally defined as a boat, they have to establish you were the one operating the watercraft. Operating has several meanings under BUI law. It can mean any, or all, of the following.
- Being in physical control of the moving vessel.
“Being in physical control of the moving vessel” is the most subjective of the types of “operation.” “Being in physical control” refers to being in a position where you can operate the boat in very short order. The public policy behind the being in physical control laws is the desire to keep people safe by allowing police to arrest someone before they actually operate the boat.
In every physical control case, the facts must be carefully analyzed. For example, if a person is sitting in the driver's seat of the pontoon boat, even if the boat is not on, they are probably in physical control of the boat. If they are sitting next to the driver's seat, and the boat is not on, but they are the only one on the pontoon boat, they are probably in physical control of the boat. However, if they are sitting next to the driver's seat, and someone else is in the driver's seat, they are not in physical control of the boat.
Understanding “Under the Influence” in BUI Cases
“Under the influence” is a broad term that covers several different scenarios. Any one of these scenarios is sufficient to result in BUI charges, assuming the other elements of the offense are met.
- Where the driver is under the influence of any drug, whether over the counter, prescription, or an illegal substance to the extent that it is less safe for the person to operate, navigate, steer, drive, manipulate, or be in actual physical control of the boat.
- Where the driver is under the influence of alcohol to such an extent it is less safe for the person to operate, navigate, steer, drive, manipulate, or be in actual physical control of the boat.
- Where the driver is under the intentional influence of any glue, aerosol, or other toxic vapor to such an extent that it is less safe for the person to drive, navigate, operate, manipulate, or be in actual physical control of the boat.
- Where the driver is under the combined influence of any two or more of the substances specified in paragraphs above, alcohol, drugs, glue, aerosol, or other toxic vapors to such an extent that it is less safe for the person to drive, navigate, operate, manipulate, or be in actual physical control of the boat.
- When a person has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 grams or more at any time within three hours after driving, navigating, operating, manipulating, or being in actual physical control of the boat, from alcohol consumed prior to operating the boat.
Other Offenses Related to BUI
There are other crimes you can be charged with related to BUI charges. For example, if you are the owner of a boat or other watercraft, and you allow someone who is intoxicated to operate your boat or other watercraft, you can be charged with a crime.
If there is a child under the age of 14 on the boat or watercraft when the driver is charged with BUI, they may also be charged with another crime. This crime is endangering a child by operating a moving vessel or personal watercraft while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This is a completely separate charge from the BUI charge.
Because the legal drinking age is 21, anyone caught with alcohol in their system as low as 0.02 blood alcohol concentration can be charged with a BUI if the other elements are met. The government does not have to prove the driver was actually intoxicated, or even that they were “less able” to operate the boat or watercraft safely.
Have You Been Charged with a BUI?
If you have been charged with a BUI, you need the guidance of our experienced Atlanta BUI attorneys. Our firm focuses exclusively on cases involving drivers under the influence, both boaters and drivers of cars. We have the experience you need to make certain your rights are protected at every turn. Call today for a free consultation at 404.816.4440.