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Boating Under the Influence

Web Admin - Friday, July 10, 2015

Illinois boating DUI lawyerAs summer hits full-swing, boating becomes increasingly popular. Very often, drinking alcohol coincides with a day on the water. While this usually leads to creating a great time, it can also lead to very serious consequences. Boaters should be aware that operating a boat is treated similarly to driving a vehicle when it comes to drinking. As a result, boating under the influence (BUI) can lead to significant penalties.

What is BUI?

Under Illinois law, individuals must not control a boat or other watercraft in the state of Illinois while:

  1. 1. They have a blood or breath alcohol content of .08 or higher;
  2. 2. They have been drinking and are currently inebriated; or
  3. 3. They are intoxicated by any other drug that makes them incapable of operating the boat.
Unfortunately, many people often do not recognize that consuming alcohol or drugs and operating a boat can be equally as dangerous as driving a vehicle. Operation Dry Water, a study initiated by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard, found that, in 2014, alcohol was the leading factor in 21 percent of recreational boating deaths.

Penalties for BUI

Most BUI offenses are considered Class A misdemeanors. However, it may be charged as a Class 4 felony if:

  • 1. The individual has a previous conviction for BUI;
  • 2. The offense leads to an injury where someone other than the driver sustains serious bodily harm or disability or disfigurement; or
  • 3. The offense took place during a period in which the driver’s privilege to operate a watercraft is revoked or suspended due to a BUI-related offense.

If the individual is found guilty of causing great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement, the penalty is a mandatory prison sentence of one year, but not more than 12 years. BUI is considered a Class 2 felony if the violation results in the death of someone. A guilty conviction carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence of three years, with a maximum of 14 years.

Boating is often a family activity. As a result, operators should be aware that BUI with a child under 16 on board results in a mandatory minimum fine of $500 and a mandatory minimum of five days of community service in a program that benefits children.

Finally, it is important to note that operating a boat while on the open waters of Illinois is considered consent to a chemical test or tests of blood, breath, or urine in order to determine whether the operator is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

BUI is a serious offense with potentially significant consequences. If you have been charged with this offense, you should speak to an experienced Illinois criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. We can help you protect your rights. Our firm represents individuals throughout the northwest suburbs, including communities such as Rolling Meadows, Schaumburg, Palatine, and Des Plaines.

About the Author: Founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC, Colin Gilbert, received his J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of law in 2005. Colin argues cases across many practice areas including criminal defense, collections, civil litigation, real estate law, and corporate law. Colin is an active member of the Board of Governors of the Northwest Suburban Bar Association and the Illinois Creditors Bar Association. He is currently Vice President of the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce, and is a Commissioner for the Village of Arlington Heights. Colin has a 10.0 Attorney rating on Avvo, and was named one of the 2014 “Top 40 Under 40” Trial Lawyers in Illinois by the National Trial Lawyers Association. 

Boating Safety Laws in Illinois

Web Admin - Tuesday, July 22, 2014

illinois boating accident lawyerOne of the most common summer activities around Illinois is boating. It is a great way for people to get out and enjoy the water and the good weather. However, boating is also a dangerous activity if people do not do it with the proper care. 

Consequently, Illinois has a variety of boating safety laws in place to help ensure that everyone can safely take advantage of the summer weather while it lasts. These laws were recently updated following the death of a 10-year-old boy in an alleged drunk boating accident. The new laws include further restrictions and increased penalties on operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol, special signaling requirements for safety and visibility, and boating licenses for younger operators.

Boating and Alcohol

One of the most common causes of boating fatalities is the improper use of alcohol while boating. Just like driving a car, operating a boat while intoxicated increases the risk of death or serious injury while on the water. In fact, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, despite alcohol being involved in approximately one in six boating accidents overall, it has been a factor in one-third of the boating deaths this year.

Boaters should keep in mind that the legal limit for operating a boat or personal watercraft is the same as it is for driving a car: 0.08 percent blood alcohol content. The penalties for such violations can be severe, including thousands of dollars in fines and up to 14 years in prison if the impaired boat operation results in a person's death. Additionally, if a person is convicted of three DUIs, then the state may take their boat from them as part of the penalty. Boating DUIs can also affect a person's ability legally to drive their car since courts may punish intoxicated boaters by suspending their driver's licenses.

Signaling and License Requirements

The updated laws also have new requirements as far as signaling and licensing requirements are concerned. Now, any boat that is pulling someone behind it in a tube or on water skis must display a bright orange flag from the highest point on the boat. The flag must be at least a one-foot square, and it must stay out the entire time that the boat pulls the person. The law also added a new license requirement for boat operators between the ages of 12 and 17. Starting in 2016, minor operators must complete a boating safety course before they can operate a motorboat.  

If you have recently been involved in a boating accident caused by the negligence of others, contact an experienced Illinois personal injury attorney today. Our skilled team of lawyers represents clients in many northwest suburban towns like Rolling Meadows, Barrington, and Crystal Lake.

About the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.


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