Boating Under the Influence


Many people are not aware that operating a boat, vessel, or watercraft under the influence of alcohol can be illegal. If you were recently arrested on drunk boating charges, you may be feeling confused and ashamed. Maybe it was a simple accident or misunderstanding. Whatever the circumstances may be, a boating under the influence charge can result in serious consequences.

As with a DUI, if you are facing boating under influence charges, you will need the right DWI defense attorney by your side to fight in court. An experienced California lawyer may be able to reduce or have the charges against you dismissed.

Contact McElfresh Law at (858) 756-7107 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a qualified lawyer.

Understanding a California Boating Under the Influence Charge

According to California Harbors and Navigation Code Section 655, “no person shall operate any vessel while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, any drug, or the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and drug.” The blood alcohol content limit is .04 for operating a boat or water vessel, which is lower than the standard .08 for driving.

When you operate a boat while intoxicated, you are breaking the law in California. Essentially, causing a drunk boating accident that results in bodily injury or property damage is equivalent to causing a DUI accident. You may be facing a serious criminal offense. Boating while intoxicated is also very dangerous. You are more likely to cause collisions or fall overboard because of impairment to depth perception, coordination, and reaction time.

Examples of illegal drunk boating include:

  • A water sports enthusiast consuming multiple alcoholic beverages, resulting in a BAC of .09, immediately before steering a motorboat.
  • A commercial ship captain casually drinks beers with other workers, and continues to operate the boat, despite having a .06 BAC.

Penalties for Boating Under the Influence in California

Under California law, boating under the influence is considered a misdemeanor, but you can also be charged for a felony offense if your actions cause harm to someone else. Upon conviction, you may be subject to the following penalties and repercussions:

  • Up to 1 year in county jail with a fine up to $1,000 for a misdemeanor charge
  • Up to 1 year in prison with a fine up to $5,000 for a felony charge
  • Up to 10 years in prison for an aggravated felony charge that causes death or serious injury to another person
  • Suspension or revocation of your commercial vessel license or driver’s license
  • A permanent criminal record
  • Required treatment for drug or alcohol rehabilitation

In addition, if you have prior DUI or BUI convictions, you will likely receive a more severe sentence. Offenders under 21 years of age are also subject to the zero tolerance policy and can be charged for any amount of alcohol in their system. Having a BUI conviction on your permanent record can negatively impact future employment options.

How a San Diego DUI Lawyer Can Help

Drunk boating cases can become complicated, and you will want to hire an attorney who understands California DUI laws. With the right San Diego DUI lawyer on your side, you can potentially get your charges reduced or withdrawn.

Attorney Jessica McElfresh holds years of experience in handling complex criminal cases. She will be able to walk you through the entire legal process and fight for you in court. Attorney McElfresh is a skilled negotiator with knowledge of the California court system. By partnering with McElfresh Law, you can be assured to receive the quality representation that you deserve.

Contact us today at (858) 756-7107 to schedule a free case evaluation with an experienced San Diego drunk boating lawyer. We are ready and prepared to defend your legal rights.