The beautiful lakes in Louisiana make boating and water sports popular activities for both tourists and residents. Locals and visitors alike also enjoy fishing and Cajun swamp sightseeing. These recreational activities, however, are still dangerous as the US Coast Guard reports nearly 4,000 boating accidents a year.
Alcohol is the leading cause of boating accidents in Louisiana, and an arrest for boating while intoxicated is handled in the same manner as a DUI. If you or a loved one was operating a vessel under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you need to consult one of our top DUI attorneys to minimize the penalties.
The Effects of Drugs and Alcohol While Boating
Just like driving, boating takes skill and careful attention. The operator must be aware of his or her surroundings, operate the boat in a responsible manner, and have enough experience to maintain proper handling of the vessel. Serious injury and death are possible if one does not follow the important safety precautions. Common causes of boating accidents include:
- Operating the boat without first mastering the controls
- Boating in restricted areas
- Operating the boat alone
- Sailing or fishing in dangerous weather
- Operating in a reckless, aggressive or careless manner
- General, negligent acts or acts violating of water sport laws
Any of the above are more likely to occur when alcohol or drugs are involved.
Though many people may enjoy an alcoholic beverage on a boat, the effects of drinking on a watercraft often causes increased side effects. Vision, balance and judgment become impaired. Increased fatigue and susceptibility to cold water should one fall in, are also a problem. Lastly, the side effects of drinking or drug use on the water are intensified with sun, motion, wind, noise and vibration.
Penalties for BUI Arrests
In Louisiana, the criteria for a BUI are the same as a DUI charge. A person will be arrested for boating while intoxicated if they are operating a vessel with a BAC of .08 if over 21, and .02 if the driver is underage. Like the penalties for a DUI arrest, punishments for BUI convictions vary depending on how intoxicated you were, as well as if you have any prior convictions including previous DUI’s or negligent injuring. Common penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, 48 hours in jail and a license suspensions of both your driver’s license and your boating license.
If your BAC is below the legal limit or if you refuse a Breathalyzer test, a member of law enforcement can still arrest you if your boating indicates that you were possibly impaired by drugs or alcohol. The officer may ask you to complete a field sobriety test, even though boating conditions could make anyone fail to perform the tasks. If that happens, you need a BUI attorney to fight for your rights.
Unique BUI Laws in Louisiana
Aside from allowing field sobriety tests on the boats or watercraft, Louisiana has a few additional laws connected to boating that are not common in all 50 states.
- Refusal to take a field sobriety test can be used against you in court
- Marine officers can board your vessel anytime a BUI or threat to safety is suspected
- BUI checkpoints are in place during holidays and peak boating season
- A BUI has negative consequences on your driving record and your insurance
With Caddo Lake, Lake Pontchartrain and other beautiful locations for boating in Louisiana, our criminal defense attorneys handle numerous BUI cases from clients throughout the state. If you were arrested for boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol, call our office now for a free case review.