Can I Get a DUI While Boating?
The weather’s slowly improving in Northern Illinois, and for some of us, that means getting out on the water. A day on Lake Michigan can be the perfect way to relax and spend time with family and friends. But if you mix boating with a few alcoholic drinks, you might find yourself in trouble with the law.
Operating any vessel under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both is illegal in Illinois. It’s a lot like getting arrested for DUI.
If you or a relative find yourself charged with boating under the influence (BUI), call The Jordan Law Firm at 224-340-6522 for help.
What Is Illinois’s Boating Under the Influence Law?
You can be charged with a crime if you operate or are in physical control of a watercraft while:
- You’re under the influence of alcohol;
- Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher;
- You’re under the influence of any drugs or combination of drugs that make you incapable of operating a watercraft safely;
- You have any amount of a controlled substance in your system; or
- You’re under the combined influence of alcohol and any drug.
Any amount of alcohol or an illegal drug in your system, even THC from legal cannabis, can lead to BUI charges. Most of the time, officers look for people over the legal limit. But the police can arrest you if they believe you aren’t operating a boat or other vessel safely because of drugs or alcohol.
What’s a Watercraft?
Illinois statutes use the term watercraft or vessel instead of boat. You might wonder why and ask, What is a watercraft? The term is defined in the Boat Registration and Safety Act as “every description of watercraft used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water,” though it explicitly doesn’t mean seaplanes.
A watercraft could be a:
- Personal watercraft like a jet ski,
- Non-powered watercraft like a canoe or kayak,
- Sailboat, or
If you believe you weren’t on a watercraft at the time of your arrest, talk with a lawyer right away.
Who Can Stop Me for a BUI?
Several authorities can stop you while boating off Waukegan Harbor, including the Illinois Conservation Police, the Lake County Sheriff Office’s Marine Unit, or the U.S. Coast Guard. They may stop you to check you’re following the rules and then may suspect you’re intoxicated. Or they may stop your boat because they notice signs of impairment.
What Happens After a BUI Arrest?
You may be arrested and booked into jail. At that time, you might be released on bail or held until your arraignment. If the police let you go quickly, don’t get back on a boat. Under Illinois law, you can’t operate a watercraft in the state for 24 hours after your arrest.
Do I Have to Take a Chemical Test?
Anyone who operates or controls a watercraft in Illinois has consented to a breath, blood, or urine test if the police arrest them for a BUI.
Do you have to give a breath, blood, or urine sample after a BUI arrest in Illinois? Yes and no. You can decline. But there are consequences for violating the implied consent law. If you refuse, your boating privileges will be suspended for at least two years.
Your license suspension goes into effect 28 days after your arrest. If you want to challenge the license suspension, call a lawyer right away. We can request a hearing on your behalf and fight the suspension and the charges.
Defending Against a Misdemeanor BUI Charge
After you’re arrested for a BUI, you’ll typically face a Class A misdemeanor charge. If you plead guilty or are convicted, a judge can sentence you to up to 364 days in jail. A judge can also fine you up to $2,500. Other potential punishments include supervision, probation, restitution, community service, home detention with electronic monitoring, or work release.
Under some circumstances, a BUI becomes a felony, which comes with much harsher consequences.
A prosecutor charges you with a Class 4 felony if:
- You have a previous BUI conviction;
- You caused another person great bodily harm, disfigurement, or a permanent disability; or
- You were operating a boat while your license was revoked or suspended due to a BUI.
A Class 4 felony is punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine up to $24,000. But if you’re convicted for a BUI during which you caused someone serious harm, then you face between 1 and 12 years in prison.
A prosecutor would charge you with a Class 2 felony if you caused someone’s death while BUI. If convicted, you face between 3 and 14 years in prison and fines up to $25,000.
Don’t panic while reading these potential punishments. You need to know the worst-case scenario. But you might be able to avoid it by hiring an experienced defense attorney.
What If You Had a Child or Teen on the Boat?
If a minor under 16 years old was on the boat at the time of the BUI, you will face harsher penalties. If convicted, you have to pay a fine of at least $500 and complete at least five days of community service in a program that benefits children. The fine and number of days could be a lot higher.
You Might Lose Your Boating License
The Department of Natural Resources can suspend your boating privileges for a misdemeanor or felony BUI. If you’re a first-time BUI offender and found guilty of a misdemeanor, you’re exempt from the mandatory one-year suspension. If you’re guilty of a felony, you’ll lose your boating license for three years.
Ready to Call a Waukegan BUI Defense Lawyer?
Anisa Jordan, the founder of The Jordan Law Firm, can help you navigate BUI charges in Lake County or Cook County. She prides herself on fighting for individuals facing criminal charges. She knows how frustrating and scary the experience can be, especially if this is your first time in court.
Contact us online or call 224-340-6522 to set up a free consultation.