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Labor Day Safety: Boating Under the Influence

The acronym DUI needs no explanation. But do you know what a BUI is? That’s right, Boating Under the Influence is a real offense – punishable by fine, jail time, potential loss of boating license, and a misdemeanor charge if convicted. The attorneys at Whitehurst, Blackburn, & Warren want your family to stay safe this Labor Day weekend, so here are some tips on how to avoid a BUI.

Just like a DUI in Georgia, an individual is not allowed to operate a boat if their blood alcohol concentration exceeds 0.08 grams. This also extends to operating water skis, wake boards, surfboards, and other watercraft.

Unlike a DUI, however, “less of a standard has to be met to pull over a boater,” explains WBW partner and attorney Joe Cargile. “Sometimes clients express frustration after being arrested for BUI because they believe they weren’t acting suspiciously or doing anything that should have led to them being questioned. BUI’s are unique in that sense.”

Source: Georgia DNR

Cargile says, “Most scenarios are as simple as you bringing your boat in. A Department of Natural Resources (DNR) representative approaches your boat and asks if you have been drinking. They don’t necessarily need to believe there exists probable cause to do this.”

In other situations, Cargile adds, “The DNR can approach you to do a safety check. They can come onto a boat for safety reasons like checking for life vests or ensuring that all your lights are working properly.”

Field sobriety tests are conducted to measure drunk driving in situations where a BUI charge may be applicable. However, Cargile clarifies, “most field sobriety tests are best conducted when a person is on level ground. The DNR will try to conduct their examination in an environment where the water is as calm as possible, but that is difficult to do on a body of water. Still, officers usually make efforts to evaluate the boater and determine whether there exists some level of impairment caused by drug or alcohol use.”

The name of the game is safety-for-all on the water. BUI’s can lead to other charges depending on the scenario. According to the Georgia DNR, “a person found operating a boat or personal watercraft under the influence while a child under the age of 14 years is on board, is also guilty of the separate charge of endangering a child.”

To help avoid a potential BUI and other charges, WBW attorneys recommend that anyone deciding to drink on the water this summer do the following:

  1. Bring plenty of food and snacks.

  2. Wear clothes that will help keep you and your passengers cool and hydrated.

  3. If you dock somewhere for lunch or dinner and plan on drinking alcohol, wait a reasonable time (estimated at a minimum of an hour per drink) before operating your boat.

  4. Avoid drinking if operating a watercraft.

Remember, the laws are in place to keep people safe while enjoying the perks of the summer sun and heat. Be responsible, have fun, and call WBW if any problems arise.

For more information about BUI’s in Georgia, visit

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