Many people mistakenly believe that they can only be charged with driving under the influence when they are driving a motor vehicle. This, in fact, is not the case. A person may also be charged under the California Navigation and Harbors Code Section 655.
California Navigation and Harbors Code Section 655 states in pertinent part:
(b) No person shall operate any vessel or manipulate water skis, an aquaplane, or a similar device while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, any drug, or the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and any drug. (c) No person shall operate any recreational vessel or manipulate any water skis, aquaplane, or similar device if the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more in his or her blood. (d) No person shall operate any vessel other than a recreational vessel if the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.04 percent or more in his or her blood.
Officers must have probable cause to question a driver for the suspicion of driving under the influence, much like drivers on the road. Whereas officers may stop a driver for a violation of the vehicle code, such as swerving, speeding, invalid license plate, no headlights, etc., a person driving a boat may be stopped for similar reasons.
A person driving a boat may be stopped for not observing proper right of way etiquette, speeding, equipment violations, lack of proper registration or lack of proper display of registration, etc. Any of these will give authorities the valid cause to stop a driver and question him or her regarding the violation. If the authorities observe behavior of intoxication, such as watery eyes, slurred speech, inability to stand straight, smell of alcohol, they have the reasonable suspicion to administer a field sobriety test. The procedures are similar to a violation of the California Vehicle Code Section 23152, or 23153, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The potential consequences of a BUI are similar to that of a DUI, however they vary somewhat. The sentence may involve probation, fines and a jail sentence. In many cases the Judge will also order an alcohol education program to be completed. The final sentence would depend on the person’s criminal history and the specific facts of the case.
A BUI will count as a prior if a person is later charged with a DUI. The court will look at a person’s past criminal history up to ten years. If there are priors, whether a DUI or a BUI, it will be counted against the person and may result in an increased penalty, or a final sentence that falls towards the higher end of the spectrum.
If you have gotten a BUI, don’t make the mistake of assuming it is not as serious as a DUI. Courts take both violations very seriously and could carry with it a permanent mark on your criminal record as well as serious penalties. Consult an experienced San Diego Criminal Defense lawyer to learn the strengths and weaknesses of your case as well as possible defenses.