BUI: Boating And Drinking In California

With summer’s official arrival, Californians are preparing for all types of water-based fun. Millions of California residents safely enjoy boating on rivers, lakes, and on the ocean each summer. With nearly a million registered boats in the state, and no license required to operate a watercraft, the chance for danger while boating is high. Add alcohol into the mix, and the likelihood of an accident or injury becomes much higher.  For this reason, the state of California treats boating and drinking much like drinking and driving a motor vehicle. Though it is not illegal to operate a boat while drinking, the same legal limit of intoxication stands for boaters in California.

Alcohol and boating is a dangerous combination. Recent studies estimate that nearly 25 percent of boating accidents in the United States are alcohol-related. Often, boating and drinking is more dangerous than drinking and driving, due to factors like engine noise, waves, wind, and glare from the sun. Operating a boat also requires specific skills like balance, coordination, and depth perception, all of which are suppressed when drinking alcohol. On top of that, alcohol often leads to overconfidence, causing watercraft operators to take more risks while boating. All of these factors lead to an increased chance for accidents, collisions, injuries, or worse.

Consuming alcohol as a passenger can also be risky. Over 80 percent of boating fatalities are caused by drowning, and drinking while boating increases the chances of falling overboard. The chances of hypothermia while under the influence are also increased, creating potentially fatal situations if boating in cooler waters. For these reasons, even passengers should use caution when imbibing on a boat.

Due to the obvious dangers of drinking and boating, the law in California makes it illegal to operate a boat under the influence. There is no “open-container” law, so while boating and drinking aren’t technically illegal, operating a watercraft under the influence certainly is. Operators over 21 must be below a .08 percent blood alcohol to be legal. Even blood alcohol contents below a .08, when combined with other factors, can still lead to an arrest and DUI. Those under 21 should refrain from drinking completely, as anyone under 21 found operating a boat with a .01 BAC or higher will face charges.

If you are facing legal issues stemming from boating while under the influence, the help of a qualified San Jose criminal defense attorney may be necessary. The experienced attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas Nicholas Cvietkovich are available to assist you.

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