With Lake Lanier only being a short drive north of Atlanta, many Fulton County residents head to the water during the summer months. One important thing to remember for lake-goers is to never get behind the wheel of a watercraft after drinking. In today's post, I'll be talking about the dangers of drinking while boating and the consequences you could face if you are caught. A staggering 29 people received boating under the influence charges over Memorial Day Weekend at Lake Lanier. Though there isn't an open container law on the water, boaters will face jail time, hefty fines, and other penalties if you are caught driving their boat while under the influence of alcohol.
As a Fulton County D.U.I. Lawyer, I've found the main thing people don't realize is that a B.U.I. charge doesn't necessarily come from operating a boat. According to O.C.G.A. § 52-7-12 (a), “no person shall operate, navigate, steer, or drive any moving vessel, or be in actual physical control of any moving vessel, nor shall any person manipulate any moving water skis, moving aquaplane, moving surfboard, or similar moving device while [under the influence of alcohol, drugs, a combination of alcohol and any drug, marijuana, glue, aerosol, or other toxic vapor] …”. What this means is that it is illegal to consume alcohol and operate any watercraft, including jet skis, sailboats, motorboats, water skis, and even surfboards.
Additionally, many people don't know what the limit is for the amount of alcohol you may drink and still operate a watercraft. The answer is simple: it's the same limit imposed on driving a car. O.C.G.A. § 52-7-12(a)(4) states that it is against Georgia B.U.I. law for anyone's blood alcohol concentration (B.A.C.) to be “0.08 grams or more at any time within three hours after such operating, navigating, steering, driving, manipulating, or being in actual physical control of a moving vessel, moving water skis, moving aquaplane, moving surfboard, or similar moving device from alcohol consumed before such operating, navigating, steering, driving, manipulating, or being in actual physical control ended.”
If you are caught boating under the influence, the minimum penalties you will face include 24 hours in jail, $300 in fines, 40 hours of community service, 12 months of probation, completion of a D.U.I. Alcohol or Drug Risk Reduction Course, as well as a clinical evaluation and any recommended treatment. Boating under the influence is considered a misdemeanor offense and has the potential to go beyond these minimum penalties. However, a B.U.I. charge will not affect your driver's license – it only affects your privilege to operate a watercraft.
As a Fulton County D.U.I. Attorney, I've helped with many clients face B.U.I. charges. But a D.U.I. charge and a B.U.I. charge are not the same thing – in order to get the best defense possible, you need an attorney that has experience defending B.U.I. cases. If you or a loved one has received a B.U.I., call our office today.