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Charged with Boating Under the Influence in Ohio?

Most people are familiar with DUI - drunken driving.  Many people forget that there is an equivalent offense for boating.  You may not be aware of it, but the boat's motion, vibration and engine noise as well as sun, wind and spray all make the effects of alcohol and drugs seem more intense. BUI is responsible for approximately 34 percent of fatal boat accidents every year. These conditions all add up to a dangerous drinking and boating experience.

Under Ohio Revised Code section 1547.11, "no person shall operate or be in physical control of a vessel underway or manipulate water skis, aquaplanes, or similar devices while under the influence of alcohol, a drug of abuse, or both, or with a prohibited concentration of alcohol or certain controlled substances or metabolites of those substances."

The same legal limits for DUI / OVI apply to BUI (.080% for alcohol - persons 21 and older; .020% for alcohol - persons under 21 years of age). 

As most boaters are aware, the Coast Guard or ODNR officers can always check us out for proper boating safety devices.  During this limited contact, these officers will also be looking for additional criminal activity - like open containers, marijuana, and intoxication. 

What is surprising to many people, including lawyers and judges, are the following unusual aspects of Ohio's BUI laws:

  • BUI's are "prior convictions" for a subsequent DUI arrest in Ohio.  In other words, if you are convicted of boating under the influence, you will have a "prior conviction" for DUI purposes in the event you are charged with DUI later in life.
  • There is no drivers license suspension for BUI arrests or convictions.
  • The primary penalty for BUI is a mandatory 1 year "No Operation of a Watercraft" or "Registration of Watercraft"
  • A 1st offense BUI is a mandatory 3 day jail term (in a judge's discretion, this can be served at a 72 hour alcohol education program)
  • In Ohio, "watercraft" specifically includes boats with motors, sailboats, inflatable boats that are manually propelled that are required to have hull identification required by the U.S. Coast Guard, canoes, rowboats, waterskis, and aqua planes.
  • What is not "watercraft" under current Ohio BUI law? Sailboards and, believe it or not, ferries. 

Contact an Ohio BUI Defense Lawyer at the firm if you have been charged with boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

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