As 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. They have a blood or breath alcohol content of .08 or higher;
- 2. They have been drinking and are currently inebriated; or
- 3. They are intoxicated by any other drug that makes them incapable of operating the boat.
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.