Boating Under the Influence: What Are the Consequences?

cop administering breathalyzer

Virginia state officials are cracking down on intoxicated boaters by lawfully allowing officers to treat boat drivers just as they would treat drunk drivers on land. This means law enforcement can make an arrest for boating under the influence without a warrant, so long as there is probable cause.

Before you get out on the water, make sure you know the risks of driving a motorized watercraft while intoxicated so you can better protect your future.

Virginia State Laws

In the state of Virginia, it is illegal to operate any boat while intoxicated due to either alcohol consumption or drug use. Intoxication is defined by a person’s blood-alcohol concentration (BAC). If a driver’s BAC is at or above 0.08%, the driver is considered under the influence to a degree that impairs his or her ability to safely operate a boat. For boat drivers under the age of 21, the legal drinking age, any level of alcohol discovered in their system is considered unsafe and unlawful. If a person is found guilty of driving any boat, including sailboats and personalized watercrafts, (such as jet skis or sailboards), he or she will receive a BUI, boating under the influence.

Having probable cause means an officer must see the driver exhibit behavior that shows the officer the driver is intoxicated. The officer could also see the driver taking a drink of alcohol or similar evidence that demonstrations the driver was drinking.

Repercussions for Boating Under the Influence

Boating under the influence, also called BUI, is a serious offense and can lead to serious repercussions, especially if you are under the legal drinking age, have multiple offenses, or had an especially high blood alcohol concentration. For a first offense, the driver will face a minimum class 1 misdemeanor charge and may also lose boating privileges for 1 year. For driver’s facing second or subsequent convictions, boating privileges may be revoked for up to 3 years. Those facing BUI charges may also receive fines of up to $2,500, imprisonment for up to 12 months, and required attendance at an Alcohol Safety Action Program. Additionally, all BUI offenders are required to complete a state-approved boating safety course.

Additional Penalties

Certain circumstances may lead certain BUI charges to come down much more strongly than others. If the intoxication of the boat driver leads to “serious bodily injury” of another person, it could be considered a class 6 felony. Such a charge could lead to up to 5 years in prison or 1 year in jail, and possibly $2,500 in fines. The boat driver’s operator privileges will be suspended for a minimum 2 years, and the court may require the completion of a substance abuse treatment.

In the event that a person is killed in a BUI accident, the boat driver could be convicted of involuntary or aggravated-involuntary manslaughter, which are class 5 felonies. If convicted of involuntary manslaughter, the driver may face up to 10 years in prison and $2,500 in fines. A person convicted of aggravated-involuntary manslaughter could result in up to 20 years in prison. Both convictions would result in the loss of boating privileges for at least 5 years, and may also require the completion of a substance abuse treatment.

If you are facing BUI charges, don’t wait to take action. It is our mission to reduce your penalties and ensure your individual rights are protected. For the best possible outcome following your BUI arrest, contact a criminal defense attorney at The Law Offices of Daniel J Miller to discuss your case and begin building your defense.

Contact The Law Offices of Daniel J Miller for a free consultation.

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