Is Boating Under the Influence (BUI) a Crime in NC?

Boating Under the Influence in North Carolina is illegal. Boating Under the Influence (BUI) laws are related or similar to driving while impaired (driving under the influence) (DWI/DUI) laws and carry similar consequences if convicted. It may be necessary to reach out to a DWI defense attorney for advice and help.

The key difference between DWI/DUI and BUI is that DUI is for cars and other motor vehicles on land whereas the BUI means operating a boat or other watercraft, such as jet skis, when impaired by alcohol or other controlled substances (drugs). In this article, we’ll provide an overview of BUI laws in North Carolina and some comparisons to DUI. If you have been arrested for this crime or DWI/DUI, you should retain a good North Carolina defense attorney.

What is BUI in North Carolina?

boat capsized due to BUI (boating under influence)

The state of North Carolina defines “boating under the influence” as operating any boat while having consumed enough alcohol or drugs to impair one’s ability to do so safely. It outlines this in G.S. 75A-10(b1). North Carolina Criminal Law Chapter 75a-10 refers to Operating a Vessel While Impaired – “Boating While Impaired” commonly referred to as “BWI” “Drunk Boating” or “Impaired Boating.”

It should also be noted that minors, those under the age of 21, are prohibited from operating any watercraft after having consumed any amount of alcohol or other intoxicants; otherwise, they face harsher penalties than adults would for similar offenses.

Drunk Boating Vs. Drunk Driving

The main difference between BWI and DWI is that one occurs on the water while the other occurs on land. While both offenses are dangerous, drunk boating has the potential for even greater danger due to a lack of boating experience, lack of marked roadways, and the unpredictable nature of the environment. Not only does this increase the risk of an accident occurring, but it also increases the chances of severe injury or death due to drowning.

On the other hand, there are many more drivers on land as it is our chief form of personal transportation. So statistically you are more likely to be in a car accident or possibly cause a car accident. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 31% of traffic fatalities in the US involve drunk drivers (with BACs of .08 g/dL or higher).  Every day, about 37 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes. There is no comparison when it comes to BWI accidents. Boating under the influence though accounts for 50% of boating accidents according to stats.

Despite sharing common definitions with impairing driving laws, boating while impaired and surfing or skiing while impaired are not implied consent offenses. This means that boaters, skiers, and surfers—unlike drivers—are not considered to have provided consent to testing to a chemical analysis if charged with a BUI and that a refusal to be tested does not cause driver’s license revocation.

Penalties from a BUI Conviction

If you are arrested for Boating Under the Influence in North Carolina, there are numerous potential consequences that could result from your conviction. Penalties can be harsher depending on factors such as prior criminal history and degree of intoxication at the time of arrest.

Possible punishments range from fines and jail time to license revocation and community service requirements; however, it is important to note that these vary greatly based on individual circumstances and the severity of the offense. For instance, first-time offenders may receive leniency when compared to multiple-offense offenders who could face more severe punishments such as mandatory jail time or loss of their boating privileges permanently.

Most North Carolina BUIs are class 2 misdemeanors. The sentence a court can impose depends on the offender’s criminal history. But generally, North Carolina BUI offenders face $250 to $1,000 in fines and a maximum of 60 days in jail.

For DWI/DUI penalties, see our site.

Defenses to a BUI Charge in North Carolina

Lack of Evidence: One of the most common defenses to a BWI is that you were not impaired or operating the vessel in a negligent manner at the time of your arrest. This can be established through witness testimony or physical evidence, such as sobriety tests or breathalyzer results. However, if no chemical analysis was provided, then that particular physical evidence has not been provided and is not available as proof of impairment.

Lack of Probable Cause: Additionally, it is possible to argue that the arresting officers lacked probable cause for making the arrest in the first place, rendering any evidence obtained from it invalid.

Inaccurate Results: Another defense involves challenging the accuracy of breathalyzer results. These devices are not always accurate and can be affected by factors such as radio frequency interference, improper calibration, or even environmental factors like temperature and humidity. If these issues can be demonstrated in court, then it may be possible to have any breathalyzer evidence thrown out and have charges reduced or dismissed.

Mitigating Factors: There may even be mitigating circumstances surrounding an individual’s charge that can reduce liability or result in lesser penalties if accepted by a judge or jury. For example, an accused person may have been found operating their vessel after consuming alcohol due to an emergency such as medical distress or a mechanical malfunction on board their vessel. By demonstrating these extenuating circumstances in court, it may be possible to avoid conviction of a BUI charge in North Carolina.

Contact a DWI Defense Attorney

If you’ve been charged with BUI, it’s important to have experienced legal representation. Working with a criminal defense lawyer can help you understand your rights and options in North Carolina.

Leading DWI defense attorney lawyer Dewey Brinkley has helped many clients fight against DWI/ DUI accusations. He understands the seriousness of the charges and will act with discretion while vigorously challenging the prosecution’s case. If he cannot assist you with your BUI charges, his legal reputation and associations within the North Carolina legal community will enable him to make recommendations.

Contact the Law Office of Dewey P. Brinkley at (919) 832-0307 or by using the online form to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.

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