In Cook County, we are incredibly fortunate to have access to many lakes and rivers for recreation. In addition to the famed Lake Michigan and Chicago River, there are many other bodies of water where you can spend a relaxing day on the watercraft of your choice. But before you head out, you should be aware of Illinois’ strict laws on boating under the influence.
Just as you can be charged with a crime for driving under the influence (DUI), you may face misdemeanor or even felony charges for boating while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. A boating DUI can lead to time in jail or prison, steep fines, and the suspension of your boating privileges in the State of Illinois. Depending on the facts of your case, a skilled boating DUI defense lawyer may be able to have the charges against you reduced or dismissed.
At The Davis Law Group, P.C., we provide high-quality legal defense to individuals facing all types of criminal charges, including DUI. We work with our clients to help them achieve the best possible outcome. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation with one of our Illinois criminal defense lawyers, reach out today.When Is Boating Under the Influence a Crime?
When you get your driver’s license, you learn that it is against Illinois law to operate a motor vehicle while you are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Likewise, it is also a crime in Illinois to operate a boat while under the influence. This offense is commonly referred to as a boating DUI or boating under the influence (BUI).
For purposes of these laws, watercraft may include a pontoon, fishing boat, jet ski, or another type of boat. If it is motorized and you are operating it while impaired, you could be charged with a criminal offense.
You are considered to be “under the influence” if:
Your BAC is 0.08 or higher (lower if you hold a commercial license or if you are under the age of 21);
You appear to be impaired by drugs and/or alcohol such that you cannot safely operate the watercraft; and/or
You have 5 nanograms or more of THC (the active ingredient in cannabis) per milliliter of whole blood (or 10 nanograms in other bodily substances).
You appear to be impaired by an intoxicating compound (common examples: huffing glue, cleaning agents or gasoline) such that you cannot safely operate the watercraft;
You have any amount of a controlled substance, methamphetamine in your blood, bodily substance or urine;
You are a CDL holder and you have any amount of a controlled substance, methamphetamine or cannabis resulting from unlawful use or consumption.
You could be charged with a boating DUI (drugs) even if the substance that you took was legal, such as prescription or over-the-counter medications. If the drug or drugs impaired your ability to operate your boat safely, it could lead to criminal charges.
You can also be charged with a boating DUI in Illinois even if you weren’t actually operating the boat at the time that you were stopped by law enforcement. Illinois law allows for a boating under the influence charge if you were operating OR in “actual physical control” of the watercraft. This has been interpreted to mean that you can be charged with a DUI if you have “...the capability or potential of operating the watercraft.”Possible Boating Under the Influence Penalties
Like other types of DUIs, the State of Illinois takes the crime of boating under the influence very seriously.
A first offense for boating under the influence will be charged as a Class A misdemeanor. The potential penalty for this offense is up to 364 days in jail and a $2,500.00 fine plus mandatory court costs. However, this charge could easily be upgraded if you have any prior convictions, supervisions or reckless driving dispositions or if any other aggravating factors are present. Examples of aggravating factors include:
Operating a boat or other watercraft while your license to operate the vessel is suspended or revoked;
Operating a boat or other watercraft while under the influence with a minor on board; and
Accidents involving great bodily harm or a fatality.
Under the law, if one or more aggravating factors are present, then both the charge and the potential penalties can be increased as follows:
Second offense: a Class 4 felony, punishable by up to 3 years in prison and a maximum fine of $25,000.
BUI with a suspended or revoked watercraft license: a Class 4 felony punishable by up to 3 years in prison and a maximum fine of $25,000.
BUI involving serious injury: a Class 4 felony, punishable by a minimum of 1 year to a maximum of 12 years in prison. Serious injury includes permanent disability, great bodily harm, or disfigurement.
BUI involving death: a Class 2 felony, punishable by 3 to 14 years in prison and fines of up to $25,000.
If the BUI occurred when there was a minor under the age of 16 on the watercraft, then there is a minimum fine of $500.00, plus 5 days of community service in a program benefiting children.
In addition to a potential period of imprisonment, steep fines, and court costs, a BUI conviction may also result in a suspension of your watercraft operating privileges by the Department of Natural Resources. For a misdemeanor boating DUI, your watercraft license will be suspended for a period of 1 year if you are not a first offender. For a felony boating DUI, your watercraft license will be suspended for a period of 3 years.
Importantly, by operating a vessel on Illinois waters, you have given “implied” consent to alcohol and/or drug testing if arrested for operating under the influence. If you refuse to submit to testing, you will lose your vessel operating privileges for a period of two years.Is It Possible to Fight Illinois Boating DUI Charges?
While the potential consequences of a boating DUI are steep, it is possible to defend against these charges with the help of an experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney. While the specific defense will depend on the facts of your case, your lawyer may be able to get the charges reduced or dismissed in a number of ways.
For example, you may be able to argue that you were not actually impaired. A person may appear to be under the influence due to different medical conditions - or even from too much time in the sun. It is possible that a law enforcement officer mistook your watery eyes or unsteady gait for intoxication when you were not actually under the influence.
Similarly, certain medical conditions and even diets can cause a false positive chemical test result. For example, if you are diabetic or follow a ketogenic diet, it could lead to the presence of mouth alcohol that triggers a false positive on a breathalyzer test. Your lawyer can use evidence of your medical condition, diet, or other issue to prove that you were not actually impaired while operating your boat.
Alternatively, if law enforcement violated your constitutional rights when stopping you, then it may be possible to have evidence from the arrest suppressed. If there was nothing unusual or suspicious about the way that you were operating your boat when you were stopped, your Chicago boating DUI attorney may be able to object to the stop on Fourth Amendment grounds.
Too often, people charged with BUI or DUI will simply plead guilty to the charges against them without fully understanding the consequences or the potential defenses available to them. Pleading guilty can have a serious impact on your life and result in a criminal record. For this reason, it is critical that you reach out to a Cook County criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible after being charged with a boating DUI.Charged with a BUI? Reach Out Today.
If you are facing a boating DUI charge, you may be filled with anxiety about how it will affect your life. A conviction can result in time in jail or prison, plus fines and fees that can leave you in financial distress. Fortunately, there are ways to fight back against BUI charges.
With offices in Northfield, Chicago, and Waukegan, The Davis Law Group, P.C. represents individuals throughout Cook County, Lake County, and DuPage County who have been charged with DUI, BUI, and other criminal offenses. We are aggressive advocates for our clients, working hard to help them achieve the best possible outcome. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation with an Illinois boating DUI lawyer, give our law firm a call at (847) 649-6479 or fill out our online contact form.
Boating DUI FAQsCan Boat Passengers Drink Alcohol in Illinois?
Yes. As long as they are legally allowed to drink alcohol, there is no law in Illinois against your passengers enjoying a drink while on your boat. It is only illegal for you to be under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs while operating or being in actual physical control of the watercraft.
If you are charged with a boating DUI, you will need a tough, experienced criminal defense lawyer. In Cook County, Lake County, or DuPage County, reach out to The Davis Law Group, P.C., to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with a member of our legal team.Will a Boating DUI Affect My Driving Privileges?
If you have been charged with a boating DUI, it is vital that you reach out to an Illinois DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible. In Cook County, Lake County, or DuPage County call The Davis Law Group, P.C. to schedule a free initial consultation.