As the temperature heats up heading into the summer, two things many Georgians enjoy are a cold drink, and cooling off by a local lake or river. But if you end up having more than a couple drinks while boating in one of our lakes or waterways, the Department of Natural Resources could place you under arrest for boating under the influence.
Boating Under the Influence
The Georgia Boat Safety Act prohibits anyone from operating any boat, sailboat, water skis, or personal watercraft while intoxicated. A boat's owner can also be charged if they allow someone else to operate their boat while intoxicated. Unlike when driving on the road, DNR law enforcement or marine patrol don't even need reasonable suspicion, but can stop any watercraft during a safety inspection.
How much alcohol is illegal when operating a boat in Georgia?
Everyone knows it's against the law to drink and drive, but most of the same laws that apply to the road also apply to Georgia's waterways. The blood alcohol limit making operating a boat per se illegal is the same as for driving. It is against the law for a boat operator to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) .08% or more. For boaters under 21, the limit is only .02%, less than half a beer for most people.Unlike a car, it is not illegal to have an open container in a boat. But it is illegal to be over the limit. Just how much alcohol it takes to go over the limit will depend on the person and circumstances. This includes body weight, metabolism, and how much food or water is consumed. Even if a boater does not feel impaired, law enforcement will use chemical tests to determine the BAC, including blood, breath or urine tests.
Implied Consent to Chemical Testing While Boating
When you are operating a boat on Georgia waterways, the law considers you to have consented to chemical testing of your blood, urine or breath for drugs or alcohol. If your refuse a chemical test, your boating privileges will be automatically suspended for a year, and the evidence can be used against you, even if you are not over the limit.
Punishments for a BUI in Georgia
Getting a BUI in Georgia waters is a misdemeanor, and can be punishable by prison time up to one year, and fines of up to $1,000. In addition, your boating privileges will be suspended, until you complete a DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction program. There are further penalties if you are arrested for a BUI while riding with a child under the age of 14. That brings a separate charge of child endangerment, with separate possible fines and prison time.
Georgia Boating Under the Influence Defense Lawyer
Although boating under the influence is treated similarly to drunk driving, there are differences in the laws, how they are prosecuted, available defenses, and penalties. If you have been charged with a BUI while boating out on Lake Lanier, Allatoona Lake, West Point Lake, or any other waterway in Georgia, give Lawson and Berry a call. One of our knowledgeable attorneys will let you know how we can fight for your rights, and beat the charges.