An Atlanta woman was arrested Sunday evening for Boating Under the Influence on Lake Lanier (BUI) after a boating accident that injured four people.
Christina Jennings, 39, was arrested Sunday after the boat she was “driving” crashed into another. All four of the passengers on the other boat were injured in the collision and were taken to the hospital. One was reported to have a broken leg. Jennings and her friend were not injured in the accident but Jennings was later arrested and taken to the Forsyth County Jail.
BUI, or Boating Under the Influence is very similar to DUI. It is illegal, and the punishments are similarly as severe. If your boat is pulled over because you were suspected to be under the influence, you will be asked to perform field sobriety tests, just as if you were operating a motor vehicle. If you refuse the State's chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine, you could lose your boating license for twelve months.
Georgia's BUI laws cover motorboats, sailboats, canoes, personal watercraft (jet skis, wave runners, etc), sailboards, and water skis. Most lake or seaworthy boats are regulated by these laws.
Ms. Jennings could also be charged with “serious injury by vessel.” Serious Injury by Vessel will be charged when a person causes bodily harm to another through an offense of speeding greater than idle speed within 100 feet of a moored vessel or person in the water or shoreline, operating a vessel in a boating safety zone, failure to render assistance as required, failure to stop for law enforcement, or BUI.
Serious injury by vessel is a felony offense and is punishable by 1 to 5 years in prison. A person's boating privilege will also be suspended for 3 years if convicted. A broken leg is be considered a “serious injury” under Georgia law. As a result, if prosecuted as a felony, Ms. Jennings could be facing a felony offense with a potential of 1 to 5 years in jail.
In the Jennings case there was a crash with injuries, but typically people get arrested for BUI during routine safety checks done by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR). DNR officers do these checks to make sure boats are complying with ordinances and laws. They make sure your boat's lights are in working order, that you have enough life vests, and a fire extinguisher on board. Unlike in a Georgia DUI case, the DNR does not need probable cause or suspicion of a crime to board a vessel and conduct a check.
Do not panic if you are stopped for a safety check, as it will only make the officers suspicious of you. Don't be concerned if you have an open container of alcohol on the boat or even if you have had a drink; those things are not necessarily illegal. What is illegal is when the operator of the boat has a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or more or if the operator of the vessel is less safe to operate due to the consumption of alcohol. The law generally applies to the operator of the vessel not it's passengers.
Keep in mind that Georgia has a “Zero Tolerance” policy for boat operators under 21 with a BAC of .02.
If you have been arrested for BUI, DUI, or any traffic-related offense contact the Law Offices of Richard Lawson today to get expert legal advice. Skilled attorneys are waiting for your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your freedom could be at stake; why trust that to just any attorney?