If you think that boating and drinking go hand-in-hand, you may be in for a rude awakening. Although it’s always been illegal in Rhode Island to drive a boat while drinking alcohol, the police are taking the offense more seriously. Known as BUIs, boating under the influence could land you time in jail. Before you find yourself in troubled waters, learn all about the offense and what it means for you.

What is a BUI?

A BUI is also known as boating under the influence. And although few people realize it, boating and drinking can get you in legal trouble in any of the states in the US. However, some take it more seriously than others. In Rhode Island, the stakes are higher if you’re caught in the act. A BUI means that you can’t be under the influence of drugs or alcohol while you operate your boat.

BUIs are similar to DUIs in that you cannot operate the vehicle if you have a blood alcohol content over a certain level. That level can vary on a state-by-state basis. Much like DUIs, BUIs result in some harsh penalties. The charge can result in a loss of license, a fine, jail time, and more.

A BUI can apply to any type of boat. An officer could arrest you for a BUI on a yacht, sailboard, fishing boat, or personal watercraft. If you’re the driver and you’re under the influence, you can face charges.

The Consequences of BUIs

Like drinking under the influence, boating under the influence has some undesired consequences. The blood alcohol limit is .08%. Anyone with a blood alcohol content of that level or higher than that is at risk for arrest. As your level goes up, the consequences get more severe.

If you are a first-time offender and have a BAC between .08% and .10%, you may face the following:

  • A fine of $100 to $250
  • A suspension from operating a vessel for 45 days
  • Between 10 and 60 hours of community service
  • Attendance at a boating safety course
  • A $500 boating safety fee

If you have a higher BAC level, you face higher fines, a longer suspension, and other more severe consequences. And if you have prior offenses, the consequences may be even more severe. You could end up doing jail time. It all depends on your BAC, your priors, and your legal representation.

Why The Crackdown?

If you’re wondering why police have started to crack down on drinking and boating, there are a few valid reasons. For one, there was an increase in the number of boating injuries and fatalities from drug use. In fact, the US Coast Guard claims that the increase has been a whopping 34%.

Another reason for the crackdown is the realization that intoxication on the water is very dangerous. Authorities believe that drinking on the water may be more dangerous than doing so on the land. With the sun, heat, and glare, it’s easy for a boat operator to get tired. When you throw alcohol into the mix, you have a potentially lethal combination.
There’s also the experience factor. Many boaters have much less experience driving a boat than they do driving a car. The influence of drugs or alcohol may be too much for an inexperienced operator to handle. If they get into trouble, the alcohol makes it even harder to react. It’s a dangerous combination.

The facts speak for themselves. Of all the recreational boating deaths in the US, 15% of them were believed to be caused by alcohol. The government is hoping to lower those numbers by cracking down on everyone who may be guilty of a BUI.

It all started on July 1, 2017. The US Coast Guard teamed up with the Department of Environmental Management to begin the Operation Dry Water campaign. Designed to bring an end to boating under the influence, the campaign set out to catch boat operators in the act. From a Friday through Sunday, patrols headed out across the nation to look for offenders.

Coping with BUIs

As the government cracks down on boating under the influence, it’s likely that more people will find themselves in legal trouble. After all, Rhode Island is a great state for boaters. But the consequences are serious, and you need help dealing with the charges.

If you find yourself with a BUI, you need to find legal representation. You need someone with experience in fighting BUIs, and you need someone with a proven track record. They can help you fight the charges and come out with the best possible outcome. Without god representation, you risk facing the most extreme of the consequences.
Don’t take your chances in court alone. You deserve to have great legal representation. If you are facing a BUI, contact us. We may be able to help you get out of trouble.