DUI Boating Under the Influence (BUI)
HN 655(b), 655(c), & 655(f)
The laws on the crime of boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol are found at California harbors and navigation code sections 655(b), 655(c), and 655(f).
The most common criminal charge of boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol is charged as HN 655(b). To prove that the defendant is guilty of HN 655(b), the district attorney must prove: The defendant drove or operated a boat or boating vessel, and While driving the boat or boating vessel the defendant was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or a combination of both drugs and alcohol. If injury in alleged while BUI the district attorney will also need to prove that the defendant actually caused the accident (HN 655(f)).
HN 655(b) does not require that the defendant's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reach 0.08% of more. Any amount of alcohol or drugs, no matter how small the amount might be, is sufficient to charge the defendant with boating under the influence if the amount of alcohol or drugs is sufficient to impair the defendant's ability to operate a boat safely. When the defendant's BAC is above 0.08%, the defendant may also be charged with HN 655(c). It is not uncommon for boaters to be charged with both crimes.
HN 655(c) is known as the per se count, which means if the prosecutor can prove that the defendant's BAC was at least 0.08% while operating a boat then the prosecutor will not need to prove that the defendant's ability to operate the boat safely was impaired. The impairment will be presumed. If the defendant's BAC is below 0.08% while operating a boat the prosecutor will need to prove that the defendant's ability to operate a boat was actually impaired by alcohol.
HN 655(d) For commercial drivers of boats the legal limit is 0.04% BAC and is charged under HN 655(d).
For BUIs that involve drugs (no alcohol), the district attorney will need to prove that the drugs, whether legal or illegal, impaired the defendant's ability to safely operate a boat. BAC refers to alcohol; thus, for BUIs that involve drugs there is no per se count equal to HN 655(c). For BUIs involving drugs the district attorney will usually charge the crime as HN 655(e) DUI boating while addicted to drugs.
HN 655(f) For boating under the influence charges that result in injury to third person the defendant will be charged with HN 655(f), a felony.
Sentence & Penalties for DUI Boating
Boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a misdemeanor in California. BUI is often referred to as DUI Boating.
HN 655(b): Boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol, is charged as a misdemeanor. If found guilty of HN 655(b), the defendant may face up to 180 days in jail for a first offense.
HN 655(c): Boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol with a BAC of 0.08% or more, is charged as a misdemeanor. If found guilty of HN 655(c), the defendant may face up to 180 days in jail for a first offense.
HN 655(f): DUI boating with injury, is charged as a felony. If found guilty of HN 655(f) the defendant may face up to 3 years in prison.
Probation Sentences: Probation is a period of supervision in lieu of jail or prison. Terms of probation must be followed or the defendant will be in violation of probation and may thereafter be sentenced to jail or prison. Probation sentences may be available to the defendant in some BUI cases depending on the facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history. Suspended prison sentences and split prison sentences may also be available if the defendant is found guilty of felony boating under the influence crimes (PC 1170(h)).
In addition to a possible jail or prison sentence, if found guilty of boating under the influence the defendant may also suffer any of the following: probation or parole terms, mandatory boating safety classes, restitution, fines, professional license consequences, immigration consequences),loss of civil rights (including the right to own firearms for felony HN 655(f) convictions), civil lawsuits, forfeiture of boat, and more.
Note: DUI boating crimes are neither crimes involving moral turpitude, nor strike offenses under California's Three Strikes Law.
In some cases of DUI Boating it may be possible to reduce the BUI charge or have the case dismissed entirely. In other cases, it may be possible to have the sentence and penalties associated with the charge reduced.
DUI Boating Defenses
Common defense to HN 655 crimes include: insufficient evidence to prove that the defendant was operating a boat or vessel, illegal search and seizure, improper collection or preservation of blood or breath samples, statute of limitations, lack of causation for injury (for felony HN 655(f) crimes), unreliable administration of field sobriety tests, and more.
For more information on common defenses to crimes, including HN 655 crimes, please visit defenses.