Boating Adventures

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Lake Lawyer Suwanee Mag 2013Living close to Lake Lanier can provide an added dimension to summer fun. Many area residents pack a lunch, a cooler full of cold beverages and take the short drive to spend the day participating in a number of recreational activities and water sports on the lake. And now that Lake Lanier has reached full pool, more people may be taking a dive or making a splash. Whether one is beating the heat at the lake swimming, skiing or boating, having fun is a top priority.

If boating is your summer recreation of choice, then you need to be aware of the new Boating Under the Influence (BUI) law set to go into effect on May 15, 2013. The Georgia Senate Bill 136 was approved by both the House and the Senate and was signed by Governor Deal at a ceremony at Holiday Marina on Lake Lanier in April. Everyone is still encouraged to have a good time while boating; however, the new law seeks to make it a safer experience for all ages.

The “Jake and Griffin Prince BUI Law” seeks to align the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) for BUI and DUI. Previously, Georgia was one of the few states in America that had a higher BAC for boating (.10) verses driving (.08). Before, one could legally drink more while spending a day at the lake operating a vessel, yet once they got behind the wheel of a car or on a motorcycle they were legally intoxicated. Now, both charges have the same legal limit of .08 and have similar penalties. One can be charged with BUI if he or she is less safe to operate a moving vessel due to the consumption of alcohol, drugs, or the intentional consumption of any glue, aerosol, or other toxic vapor. Also, one can be charged with a BUI if you have a BAC of .08 or more if over 21 years old or a BAC of .02 if under 21 years old at any time within 3 hours after operating a moving vessel. For a first BUI arrest, you can be charged with a misdemeanor punishable with a fine up to $1,000.00, jail time, community service, completion of a DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction program, subject to a clinical evaluation, and probation. Also, you can have your boating privileges revoked for a year.

Being on the water is not the same as being on the road. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) does not need a reason to stop you on the water. The DNR can perform safety checks at anytime without probable cause. However, it is not illegal to have an open container on a vessel nor is it illegal for a person operating a vessel to have a drink. Even though the presence of alcohol can lead to a more stringent safety check, it does not mean you are violating any laws. It is only a violation of the law, if you are over the legal limit.

It is important to take into consideration there are other factors on the water, such as engine noise, heat, sun and waves, which can contribute to impairment when combined with the consumption of alcohol or drugs. To be on the safe side, try to plan ahead and take necessary precautions to ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable day on the water.

BY: Jeff Pruitt, Jr.
Attorney at Law, Pruitt Law Firm

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