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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 your case:

  • 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 publicly 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 level BUI.

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. 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 (803) 359-3301. All initial consultations are conducted in person at our office located at 123 Harmon Street in downtown Lexington.

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  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • South Carolina Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • 10.0 Superb Rating on Avvo
  • Accredited Business by the Better Business Bureau
  • The National Top 100 Trial Lawyers
  • National College for DUI Defense

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