Being charged with BUI (Boating Under the Influence) in South Carolina is a serious offense, just like being charged with a DUI when driving while intoxicated. In fact, the laws on the water and the streets are similar. If a federal or state officer suspects a boat operator is under the influence, they can pull you over, and you can be charged. There are also BUI checkpoints in South Carolina waterways to ensure boaters comply with the law.
In South Carolina, there is no cut-off blood alcohol limit for boating under the influence. According to SC Code 1976 § 50-21-112, a person can be charged if they are under the influence of legal or illegal drugs or under the “influence of alcohol to the extent that the person’s faculties to operate are materially and appreciably impaired.” Since boater’s fatigue, the motion of the water and the glare of the sun can exacerbate the effects of alcohol, you may feel the impact of substances and be charged with a BUI in South Carolina even if your blood alcohol is not above a certain limit.
South Carolina boating laws allow authorities to charge anyone who is under the influence while operating a sailboat or any motorized watercraft. You may be charged whether you are drinking, using illegal drugs or are even using legal drugs. Any time your ability to safely operate a watercraft is impaired, you may be charged. On top of that, no blood test can prove your innocence since our laws allow authorities to use their judgment when pressing charges.
The penalties for boating under the influence in South Carolina are considerable. For a first offense, you can face imprisonment for between 48 hours to 30 days or a fine of $200. Instead of 48 hours of jail time, you may instead be sentenced to 48 hours of public service employment.
For a second offense, you may face fines of between $2000 and $5000 and imprisonment of 48 hours to one year. Instead of jail time, boaters may be given a specific amount of public service employment to complete. Third offenses of BUI can carry fines of $3500 to $6000 and imprisonment of 60 days to three years.
In addition to other penalties, boaters who have been convicted of BUI lose the right to operate a boat in South Carolina. For a first offense, a person will lose their boating privileges for six months. The suspension lasts for one year and two years for a second and third offense, respectively.
If you have been arrested and/or charged for a BUI, you could face fines and jail time, as well as a loss of your boating privileges. A BUI charge is serious and could show up on background checks in the future. As soon as you are apprehended, contact Thurmond, Kirchner and Timbes, Attorneys at Law for a consultation. Our attorneys have helped many boaters get a fair trial and a positive outcome, and we may be able to do the same for you.