Boating Under the Influence (BUI) in Georgia is a misdemeanor charge and punishable by a possible period of incarceration of up to 12 months. While similar to the consequences commonly associated with driving under the influence (DUI), there are several differences in the two charges and consequences.
The BUI statute (O.C.G.A 52-7-12) which prohibits the Operation of a watercraft while under the influence of alcohol, prescribes the following:
“No person shall operate, navigate, steer, or drive any moving vessel, or be in actual control of a moving vessel, no shall any person manipulate any moving water skis, moving aquaplane, moving surfboard, or similar moving device while [intoxicated]”
1. Differences between a charge of BUI and DUI:
1.1. No Motor Required in a BUI. While DUI require the operation of a “Motor” vehicle, i.e. a vehicle with a motor, a BUI charge can be the result of operating a non-motorized vessel. This includes waterskiing, surfboarding or a sailboat.
1.2. No Reason to Stop Needed in a BUI. Safety checks are permitted on Georgia public waterways, which allow law enforcement to stop a moving vessel without any reason. This is a crucial difference between BUI laws and DUI laws. As it relates to DUI, an officer must have at least reasonable suspicion to stop a Georgia driver.
1.3. Driving Privileges. A conviction for DUI may result in a suspension of one’s driving privileges. However, while a conviction of a BUI may result in suspension of one’s boating privileges, it does not affect driving privileges.
1.4. Roadways v. Waterways. A DUI arrest can be made on private roadways including in a driveway or within a subdivision. BUI laws are applicable under the Georgia Boat Safety Act which on apply to public waterways and not on private lakes. Public lakes such as Lake Blue Ridge, Lake Lanier, or Lake Allatoona are patrolled by local law enforcement or the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Private lakes on the other hand such as Lake Spivey in Clayton County, or Lake Arrowhead in Cherokee County are not patrolled by local law enforcement or DNR.
1.5. Field Sobriety Testing. Field sobriety testing during a BUI investigation is completed while sitting down unlike DUI field sobriety testing that is conducted standing up. Certified field sobriety testing for a DUI include walk and turn and one leg stand. Certified testing for BUI include finger to nose test, palm pat and hand coordination. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is certified for both a BUI and DUI investigation.
1.6. Time allowed to appeal driving v. boating privileges. Suspects charged with BUI only have 10 calendar days to appeal a suspension of their boating privileges. Suspects charged with DUI have 30 days to appeal a suspension of their driving privileges.
1.7. First Offender Plea. A plea under Georgia First Offender Act is available for a BUI charge, but not a DUI. This means upon successful completion of probation for a BUI, a plea entered under the First Offender Act will result in record restriction. It is important to discuss this option with your Georgia BUI Attorney to decide if this decision is best for you. A first Offender Plea is only available one time in someones lifetime.
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