Boating under the influence (BUI) is a serious offense in Texas, carrying penalties that can include fines, imprisonment, loss of boating privileges, and even the loss of a driver’s license.
If you find yourself facing BUI charges, it’s crucial to understand the unique legal landscape surrounding this offense and to engage an experienced criminal defense attorney to help protect your rights.
Understanding BUI Laws
In Texas, it’s illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit for boating is the same as for driving a motor vehicle: 0.08%.
However, you can still be charged with BUI even if your BAC is below this threshold if your ability to operate the boat is impaired.
Field Sobriety Tests on Water
Unlike DUI arrests, BUI arrests often come with unique challenges related to field sobriety testing on the water. The rocking motion of a boat can affect balance and coordination, and officers must account for these factors when conducting field sobriety tests.
An experienced BUI defense attorney can scrutinize the administration of these tests, looking for inconsistencies or irregularities that may weaken the prosecution’s case.
Law enforcement uses breath or blood tests to determine BAC levels in a BUI case. As with field sobriety tests, these tests must be administered according to specific guidelines.
If there were any irregularities in how the tests were conducted or the devices were calibrated, the results can be challenged in court.
Penalties and Consequences
BUI charges can lead to severe penalties, including:
- Fines up to $2,000 for a first offense, with higher penalties for subsequent offenses
- Jail time ranging from 72 hours to 180 days for a first offense, with longer sentences for repeat offenders
- Loss of boating privileges
- Potential impact on your driver’s license
These penalties underscore the importance of taking BUI charges seriously and seeking experienced legal representation.
Strategies for Defense
Defending against BUI charges requires an understanding of both boating laws and DUI defense strategies.
Here are some common defense approaches:
- Challenging the stop: Was the initial stop by law enforcement lawful? If there was no reasonable suspicion to stop you, the case might be dismissed.
- Examining the tests: As mentioned above, the administration of field sobriety tests and chemical tests can be scrutinized for mistakes or inconsistencies.
- Exploring other explanations: Medical conditions, medications, or even the natural movement of the boat may have contributed to the appearance of impairment. These factors can be explored as part of the defense.
The Role of a Criminal Defense Attorney
A criminal defense attorney with experience in BUI cases can provide invaluable assistance. From the initial stages of the case through trial, an attorney can guide you through the complex legal process, work to protect your rights and seek the best possible outcome.
Choosing the Right Criminal Defense Attorney
Getting charged with a BUI is not something you should take lightly. Getting the guidance of a criminal defense lawyer is paramount.