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Boating while impaired

Boating in South Carolina is governed by local ordinances as well as state law. The regulations concerning the operation of watercraft are in many ways similar to those concerning the operation of a car, as exemplified by the laws against boating while intoxicated. Law enforcement officials may pull over a boat if they suspect its operator is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

For, it is a criminal violation in South Carolina for people to operate a boat when their faculties are 'appreciably" and 'materially" impaired by drugs or alcohol. If there are neither injuries nor other aggravating circumstances related to the BWI charge, it is classified as a misdemeanor. Upon conviction, the operator may be required to pay fines, serve jail time or perform community service. Multiple convictions lead to greater punishments, according to the law. For instance, a third misdemeanor BWI conviction carries a minimum fine of $3,500 and at least 60 days in jail.

Impaired boating may lead to felony charges if someone were to become seriously injured or killed as a result. Felony BWI convictions carry more severe criminal penalties, including mandatory imprisonment and fines of at least $5,000. Additionally, those convicted of BWI are prohibited from operating watercraft within the state of South Carolina for periods ranging from six months to three years.

It is judicious for individuals facing impaired boating accusations to retain the counsel and resources of a criminal defense attorney. The lawyer may help accused individuals mount a robust and multi-pronged defense against the boating while intoxicated charges. Toward this end, the attorney might argue against the admissibility of chemical test results by which law enforcement officials measure people's blood alcohol content. If the evidence brought against the accused operator does not pass muster, the defense attorney may argue for a reduction or dismissal of charges, citing weaknesses in the prosecution's case.

Source: South Carolina Legislature, "Title 50 - Fish, Game and Watercraft", September 26, 2014

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