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Boating while intoxicated

The legal limit for the blood alcohol content of an individual while operating a motor vehicle in the state of South Carolina is .08 percent. This law applies to individuals who operate boats. Their blood alcohol content level must not exceed .08 percent if they are to legally operate their vessel.

Law enforcement agencies, such as the U.S. Coast Guard, have the authority to pull over boat operators who appear impaired. Additionally, these officials also have the authority to set up BUI checkpoints to search for boaters who may be operating their vessel while under the influence.

The penalties for operating a vessel while impaired by drugs, alcohol or a combination of both are steep. In addition to a maximum jail sentence of three years and a maximum fine of $6,000, offenders may be required to attend a boating safety program at their own expense. Furthermore, the offenders' boating privileges may be suspended. If the offenders had caused a boating accident while under the influence that resulted in serious bodily injury or even death, they could be charged with a felony BUI. Penalties for a felony BUI conviction can include up to 25 years in prison.

While the penalties for boating while intoxicated are severe, there are several defenses that can be used to contest the charges. It is important to remember that not every individual accused of a crime is in fact guilty, and all individuals are innocent until proven guilty. In this way, a defense attorney may prove to be indispensable. The attorney may question the very foundation of the state's case, both the validity of the evidence brought against the accused individual and the credibility of the law enforcement officers who conducted the arrest. By casting sufficient doubt on the prosecution's case, the charges filed against the accused individual may be reduced or even dropped altogether.

Source: PWCSafetySchool.com, "South Carolina State Specific Information", November 30, 2014

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