Some California boat owners may not know that operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a criminal offense in our state. In fact, boating under the influence (or BUI) is a leading factor in many deadly boating mishaps.

Like drunk driving, you can be charged with BUI if your blood alcohol content (BAC) level exceeds the legal limit of 0.08 percent or if you are deemed too intoxicated to operate your boat or watercraft safely. It’s imperative for any California boater who faces a BUI charge to speak right away with an experienced DUI defense attorney.

Specifically, boating under the influence is covered by California’s Harbors and Navigation Code. It defines “under the influence” as a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08 percent for operating a recreational vessel and 0.04 percent for operating a commercial craft. For personal watercraft like aquaplanes and water skis, there is zero tolerance; a user may not measure any blood alcohol content whatsoever.

Boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be even more dangerous that driving while intoxicated. Half the victims in boating deaths involving alcohol use, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, capsized their boats or fell overboard. Boats are more difficult to steer and to brake than cars are, and most people have far less experience boating than driving.

The consequences of a BUI conviction can include the loss of your driver’s license, fines, and even jail time. A BUI conviction in California also counts as a prior if you’re charged with DUI at any time in the subsequent ten years. If you are charged with BUI in California, you’ll need legal representation from an experienced DUI defense attorney. A good California DUI defense lawyer will defend your legal rights, assess the specifics of your case, explain your options, and guide you through the legal process to the best possible resolution of your case. If you’re facing any kind of BUI or DUI charge, speak to an experienced DUI defense attorney right away.