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BUI Defense

About Boating Under the Influence (BUI) in Georgia:

*Make sure to check out our 2018 Q&A Update below*

If you have been charged with Boating Under the Influence (BUI), you are exposing yourself to heavy criminal penalties which include the suspension of your boating privileges, drug, and alcohol counseling, court ordered fines, community service, and incarceration. Boating under the influence is potentially more risky than a DUI as the crowded lakes of Georgia are an inherently dangerous environment, no matter the circumstances. Many boat owners are unskilled or do not spend sufficient time operating their vessels and the marine environment can present hazards not found on the road.

Under Georgia law, it is now illegal to operate a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs if you are a less safe boat operator or if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is greater than .08%. This lower legal limit was signed into law in 2013 and has resulted in many more BUI arrests with people testing over the .08 standard. If you are under 21, you can be arrested if your BAC is .02%, which is technically Georgia's Zero Tolerance law. Additionally, you can be charged with the separate misdemeanor of Child Endangerment if there is a child (or children) under 14 aboard and you are driving under the influence. The law also provides for revocation of your boating privileges if you refuse a chemical test when ordered by law enforcement, such as a breath or blood test. Unlike DUI arrests in Georgia, a BUI triggers an immediate suspension of your boating privileges.

You have 10 days to send an appeal letter to the Department of Natural Resources in an effort to reinstate your boating ability early.

At Zeliff | Watson, we have extensive experience in the defense of BUI cases. If fact, Attorney Evan Watson co-chaired the first BUI Field Sobriety continuing legal education seminar in Georgia in the Fall of 2017. Our state is eager to prosecute individuals who are under the influence while boating and it will require aggressive and insightful actions by a BUI attorney from our firm to produce a positive outcome to your case. Both of our attorneys defend BUI cases on a regular basis, especially in Georgia's summer months. Both attorneys also attend annual training specialized in DUI and BUI defense.

Consultation on Your Case

If you or a loved one has been charged with BUI, call our offices today to set up a no-cost consultation to discuss the facts and circumstances of your arrest. Per our state's 10-day warning rule, you have only that period of time to demand a hearing or your boating privileges will be automatically suspended. This suspension applies if you refused to be tested for BAC or tested over the legal limit.

We can get this hearing scheduled and represent you throughout the proceedings as the first step towards a hard-hitting defense of your rights and privileges.

Contact a DUI lawyer to learn how the BUI charges against you may be successfully defended. 

More BUI Q&A:

1. Does an officer need probable cause to stop you on the lake? A: No, in Georgia, officers- both county and Dept. of Natural Resources are allowed to stop your boat at any time to conduct a safety and welfare check. This, of course, often is just the beginning of what turns into a full-scale BUI investigation. Remember even being asked to locate a fire extinguisher, throwable, and life jacket for everyone on board? Even this is a trick used by law enforcement to screen you for BUI. Any hesitation on your part, and you can be guaranteedit will be noted on your arrest report. 

2. What is probable cause to arrest for BUI? A: Probable cause is a relatively low bar to meet. Past Georgia cases have held that the odor of alcohol on your breath combined with just about one of any number of factors can equate to probable cause to arrest for suspicion of boating under the influence. Remember, we are experts at fighting and deconstructing the tests they will give you to attempt to prove you BUI.

3. What are the sobriety tests I took- are the legit? A: Likely, you took some combination of the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, vertical gaze nystagmus test, hand pat, ABC and number count, preliminary breath test, and other similar agility exercises. Do these tests amount to a hill of beans? No- but keep that between us. You will never convince a law enforcement officer any differently, so we simply tear the tests down in court.

4. Does a BUI suspend my drivers license? A: No! But, that's about the only difference in BUI and DUI these days. As recently as 5 years ago, courts treated BUI as kind of a hand-slap crime. However, as tragedies on the lakes seemingly become more commonplace, courts are cracking down on BUI harder than ever.

5. Is it worth hiring an attorney for my BUI, or am I just wasting money to plead guilty no matter what? A: You are ABSOLUTELY NOT wasting money by hiring OUR FIRM on a BUI case. We win these cases at trial, and otherwise successfully negotiate many lesser offense crimes in these cases. We can save you money, probation time, jail time, and more. Talk to the "local" attorneys first, then come meet with us.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of courts we defend clients in:

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