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Is It Illegal to Operate a Watercraft, Boat, or Jet Ski Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol

Many people often wonder whether “boating under the influence” is the same kind of a crime as a DUI. Well, let’s try and give an answer to that question.

Under Harbors and Navigation Code 655 in California, you are prohibited from boating under the influence. According to this section of the law, you’re committing a crime if you operate any watercraft, boat, jet ski, or vessel while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. 

Specifically, per California BUI law, it’s a crime to do any of the below actions:

  • Operate any type of vessel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
  • Operate any kind of recreational vessel with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that is 0.08% or higher 
  • Operate any commercial vessel with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04% or higher or
  • Operate any vessel while under the influence and, while doing so, commit an act that causes harm or injury to another human being. 

Examples of Violation of Harbors and Navigation Code 655

Some examples of people who have violated the Harbors and Navigation Code 655 and can thus be charged with a BUI include: 

  • A person who has had several beers and has smoked marijuana on the beach gets on his sailboat with the intent to return home. Due to the high concentration of both drugs and alcohol in his system, this person endangers anyone who is near him while he is operating the vessel. 
  • A person who drinks a few glasses of wine on a motorboat with friends and then takes turns waterskiing behind the boat.
  • The captain of a small yacht who’s responsible for leading passengers on pleasure cruises drinks a few beers before work and begins to operate the boat with a blood alcohol concentration higher than 0.05%. 

Essentially, much like in the case of a DUI, any time you start operating a vessel after consuming a good amount of alcohol and/or drugs, it can be deemed a violation of the BUI law in California. If your actions harm another person, the penalties you will face are more severe than if you’re simply caught operating a boat while being under the influence. 

Regardless of the classification of the offense, it is important that you seek the assistance of competent legal counsel to help you best understand your legal defense while identifying an outcome that best minimizes your risk. We here at the H Law group patiently await your call.

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