Boating Under the Influence Law
Over the past several years there have been several high profile boating
accidents resulting in fatalities on South Carolina waterways. This has
led to a significant increase in the number of boaters arrested and criminally
charged for boating under the influence (BUI). This is a serious charge
and if convicted you can face a mandatory suspension of your boating privileges,
jail sentence, fine and permanent criminal record.
Many experienced boaters are unaware at amount of law enforcement currently
patrolling area lakes. Lake Murray for example is patrolled by the Richland
County Sheriff’s Department, Lexington County Sheriff’s Department,
Newberry County Sheriff’s Department, Saluda County Sheriff’s
Department, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and the United
States Coast Guard. BUI is treated as a “zero tolerance” offense
which means that arrests can be made with only minimal evidence. This
makes it important for anyone arrested for BUI to consult with an attorney
prior to appearing in Court.
If you have been arrested for BUI you likely have several questions about
Did the police have the right to stop my boat?
Should I have performed the field sobriety tests?
Can field sobriety tests be done on a moving boat?
Did I make the right decision with the breathalyzer?
What legal rights do I have?
When you meet with James Snell to review your BUI case you will receive
a thorough review of South Carolina BUI law and court procedures along
with a discussion of possible legal or factual defenses. This will include
time to answer any specific questions you have about your case. Once you
make the decision to retain our office for your case we will implement
a step by step process designed to ensure that your rights are vigorously
protected. We can also assist you in filing an appeal if you have been
convicted for BUI even if you were originally represented by another law
firm or you went to Court by yourself.
South Carolina BUI Penalties
South Carolina has different levels of BUI offenses depending on the prior
history of BUI convictions as well as the facts of the case. The base
charge for Boating Under the Influence is contained in S.C. Code §
50-21-112(B)(1). The full name for the law is “operation of moving
motorized water device or water device under sail while under the influence
of drugs and/or alcohol.” This offense carries up to thirty days
in the county jail. The penalty is enhances for those with prior convictions, BUI 2nd carries up to one year in prison and BUI 3rd carries a minimum of 60 days to a maximum of three years.
These penalties are in addition to a publically accessible criminal record,
possible fines and loss of boating privileges.
Sheriff and DNR BUI Cases
BUI arrests made by local law enforcement or the South Carolina Department
of Natural Resources will generally be referred to Magistrate Court for
first offenses. Those with prior convictions will face prosecution of their 2nd or 3rd level charge in the Court of General Sessions and there the State will
be represented by the Solicitor’s office.
Coast Guard BUI Cases
The United States Coast Guard regularly patrols Lake Murray performing
safety inspections which include looking for impaired boaters. If you
have been arrested by the Coast Guard, even for a first offense BUI, your
case will be referred for prosecution to Federal Court. James Snell is
admitted to practice in the United States Court for the District of South
Carolina and can represent you on any Coast Guard BUI case.
Felony BUI Defense
The most serious type of BUI offense is a Boating Under the Influence with
Great Bodily Injury or Death. These are exceedingly serious criminal charges
that can result in up to twenty five years (or more) imprisonment. We
recommend that defendants facing this level of charge make use of marine
accident reconstructionists, private investigators and other professionals
and expert witnesses to establish a strong defense. The Law Office of
James R. Snell, Jr., LLC, will make use of every available resource to
ensure that our client’s rights are protected when facing any felony
If you are being investigated by the police after involvement in a serious
boating accident you have a right to consult with a lawyer before agreeing
to be interviewed.
Contact a BUI Defense Lawyer Today
We represent clients charged with BUI or related offenses pending anywhere
in South Carolina. Initial appointments are provided at no charge to prospective
clients. To schedule your appointment call our office at (888) 301-3532.
All initial consultations are conducted in person at our office located
at 123 Harmon Street in downtown Lexington.