The criminal attorneys of Reeves, Aiken, Hightower & Burns LLP are all boating enthusiasts. Over the years, we have owned and operated sailboats, powerboats, and personal watercrafts (jet skis). We have taken our boats and families out on Lake Murray in Columbia, Lake Wylie in York County, and Lake Norman in Charlotte. We know the awesome feeling and relaxation a day on the lake can bring. Some of our favorite family memories when our children were young are skiing, tubing, and fishing from our boats. Like you, we also know how careless and reckless other boaters can be while drinking, thereby placing themselves and others in the water in real danger.
Just as “driving under the influence (DUI)” is a very serious criminal charge, so is “boating under the influence (BUI).” The statistics are clear. Someone with a blood alcohol content level (BAC) of .10% or higher is 10 times more likely to be seriously injured or die in a boating accident. Sadly, these same individuals not only risk their own lives but the lives of their passengers or others on or in the water. In fact, studies have concluded that BUI is responsible for approximately 34% of fatal boating accidents each year.
The effects of drinking alcohol and/or taking drugs (prescription or illegal) while on the lake is increased due to the hot sun, vibration of the engine, rocking of the boat on the waves, and even the reflections off the water. The term is “boater’s hypnosis” and many of us have experienced it, especially in the very hot summer months. The combined effect of alcohol and boating results in increased fatigue which can deceptively decrease our peripheral vision (critical to watching for other boats and persons in the water), night vision (already difficult), focus, cognitive abilities, balance (a challenge in even mild waves), and coordination. Not only does this effect impair a person’s ability to safely operate a boat, it also makes it more dangerous if they should fall overboard. They become disoriented quickly and drown.
A BUI on the water is virtually the same as a DUI on land. Typically, a police officer will observe unsafe speeding or erratic driving and then have you “pull over.” Obviously, certain field sobriety tests (walk and turn, one leg stand) are impossible. However, other investigation tools such as horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) and other “split attention” cognitive tests are available. The results of these tests will determine whether you will be arrested and then later given a breathalyzer examination. The same “implied consent laws” for vehicles also apply to boats and watercraft. And, if convicted of a BUI, a person faces the same penalties as a DUI, including suspension or revocation of driving privileges, steep f fines, and even jail time depending on the BAC level and whether there was an accident or injury involved.
If you have been arrested and charged with a BUI while enjoying Lake Wylie, Lake Murray, Lake Wateree, or Lake Norman, you should immediately contact one of our experienced BUI attorneys and schedule a private, confidential consultation to review your case. We can answer your questions and start investigating your particular case so that we can present you with options. You’ll sleep better after you know what you are facing. Call us today at 877-374-5999.