There is good news at the beginning of Georgia’s summer boating season. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources reported Wednesday that there were ten less Boating Under the Influence (BUI) arrests this Memorial Day weekend compared to last year.
In 2013, the legislature passed and Governor Nathan Deal signed into law legislation lower the blood-alcohol content limit for boaters from a .10 to a .08, the same as the limit set for automobiles. The law also incrased penalties for those caught boating while intoxicated. The law went into effect May 15, 2013. This led to an increase in enforcement activity and arrests last year. There has been a public awareness campaigns and higher penalties deterred BUIs.
Beginning July 1, 2014, all boat operators born on or after Jan. 1, 1998, must pass a DNR approved boater education course. Anyone renting a boat, regardless of age, is required to provide proof of a boater education course or watch a rental boat education video at the boat livery.
The Georgia Boat Safety Act prohibits anyone from boating under the influence (BUI) — that is, operating any boat, sailboat, personal watercraft, water skis, sailboard or similar device while intoxicated.
It is also unlawful for the owner of a boat or PWC to allow anyone else to operate their boat or PWC while that person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- It is illegal for those under the age of 21 years to operate a boat or PWC if their blood alcohol level is 0.02 or more
- Those 21 years of age or older are considered to be under the influence, and may not operate a boat or PWC, if their blood alcohol level is 0.08 or more or if drugs are detected.
- Those arrested for boating under the influence may lose their privilege to operate a boat or PWC until they successfully complete a DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program approved by the Department of Driver Services. They will also be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by fines up to $1,000 and/or prison time up to one year
- By operating a boat or PWC on Georgia waters, you have consented to be tested for alcohol or drugs if requested by a law enforcement official. If you refuse to be tested, you will lose your privilege to operate a boat or PWC for up to one year and your refusal may be offered into evidence against you at a trial
- A person found operating a boat or PWC 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
Ken Shigley is past president of the State Bar of Georgia (2011-12), double board certified in Civil Trial Advocacy and Civil Pretrial Advocacy by the National Board of Legal Specialty Certification, and lead author of Georgia Law of Torts: Trial Preparation and Practice. His Atlanta-based civil trial practice is focused on representation of plaintiffs in cases of catastrophic personal injury and wrongful death