Drunken Driving Doesn’t Always Happen on Jersey Roadways; Boating Season Opens New Vistas for DWI Arrests

We may have had a false start earlier this year, but with warmer weather on the way again, one thing is certain: boating season cannot be far away, if not here already. With the warm weather comes the distinct possibility of BUI (boating under the influence) arrests. Whether one is a full-time boater, or more of a fair-weather pleasure-boating type, it’s a certainty that Coast Guard and local law enforcement agencies will be on the lookout for captains who may be operating their vessels while impaired due to alcohol, prescription drugs or an illegal substance (commonly referred to by police as a controlled dangerous substance — CDS).

As New Jersey DWI-DUI defense attorneysI and my staff of experienced drunk driving lawyers understand the ease with which a passenger car driver or captain of a small watercraft can find himself on the receiving end of a DUI summons. Strangely, there likely a small percentage of part-time boaters who still believe that getting arrested for BUI is less likely than DWI on public roadways. Were that this was true.

Amazing to some, yet all to obvious to I and my staff, is that the same standards for intoxicated driving on public roads in the Garden State also apply to those who pilot boats and watercraft in New Jersey’s lakes, rivers and waterways. While many people do not realize this fact, the courts do not make any allowance for ignorance of the law, especially in this area of drunken driving/boating.

That said, and to reiterate what is already well known to police and drunken driving defense attorneys state-wide: all individuals are subject to arrest for drunk driving, impaired driving due to prescription meds or illicit drugs, and even breath test refusal regardless of whether that person is operating a motor vehicle on a city street, county road or state waterway. Car, truck, motorcycle or watercraft, operating a motor vehicle while having a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) in excess of 0.08 percent (or being impaired because of legal or illegal drug use) are chargeable offenses.

In fact, here in New Jersey, the legal statutes that cover BUI (boating under the influence) are nearly identical to the laws that govern drivers who may or may not be drunk while operating a passenger car on a public road. Not surprisingly, but also not very comforting, is the fact that the legal penalties for a BUI conviction are virtually the same as their DWI/DUI counterparts.

Some may feel that operating a watercraft while impaired by wine or beer is possibly less dangerous that driving a car, truck or SUV on a highway while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. While some aspects of BUI may seem less dangerous, our state’s legislature has deemed the dangers to be almost identical, at least based on the conditions of drunken boating and the penalties for same.

To make things all the more serious, New Jersey’s implied consent law — which obligates a driver to submit to a breathalyzer when requested by a police officer — also places the same obligation on captains or operators of watercraft here in the Garden State. Fortunately, for those accused of boating under the influence, defenses similar to those used to defend drivers of cars and trucks can also work well for defendants accused of BUI.

Any boater navigating our state’s waterways must always aware of the potential consequences that drinking and boating may have one himself. If alcohol is being consumed on a boat, it is certainly a good idea for the pilot of that craft to be sober at all times, if not to avoid the potentially costly penalties of drinking and driving at the wheel of a boat, but also for the safety of all concerned.

If you or someone you know has been arrested, charged or accused of boating DWI, drug DUI or breath-test refusal, take a moment to speak with a qualified drunken driving defense attorney before you walk through those courtroom doors. Many defense attorneys provide free initial consultations, which could be well advised considering the potential downside of any DWI conviction.