Boating under the influence, or BUI, is becoming more and more a common charge. Each week people will be arrested on Lake Murray and other South Carolina waters, and charged with operating their boat while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Lexington BUI Defense Attorney James R. Snell, Jr., anticipates representing more clients in 2014 than in years past. In preparation for these cases he attended a training program held this January in San Diego, California, and sponsored by the National College for DUI Defense.
Part of this program included specific instruction in the defense of boating under the influence, including specific challenges to field sobriety tests administered in these cases. Previously Mr. Snell had completed a course of study in DUI Detection and Field Sobriety Testing, the same materials and in the same manner as law enforcement is trained in. But in boating cases there are numerous differences, starting off with the fact that a boat is not going to provide a level stable platform for performing field sobriety tests.
What should you do if you find yourself charged with BUI?
First, understand that it is a serious legal charge. You potentially could face a publically available criminal record that can be used against you for employment screenings and other purposes. You also run the risk of possible jail sentence as well as loss of boating privileges for six months (or more). The exact procedure we implement to assist our clients depends in large part of the circumstances surrounding the arrest, including the law enforcement agency involved.
Lake Murray BUI cases can be made by any number of agencies:
- South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
- Lexington County Sheriff's Department
- Richland County Sheriff's Department
- Newberry County Sheriff's Department
- Saluda County Sheriff's Department
- United States Coast Guard (all tickets referred to Federal Court!)
But every case will include a thorough review of the evidence, and consideration for challenging each aspect of the government's case including administration of any field sobriety tests on the open water, or shortly after moving our client ashore. Everyone charged with any boating crime is entitled to the same legal rights as afforded to other criminal defendant, and we believe that it is important that anyone charged with a boating crime should consult with a lawyer prior to their court date.