Illinois’s Boating Under the Influence Laws

Read about the consequences of boating under the influence (BUI) in Illinois.

Illinois law prohibits operating or being in actual physical control of any watercraft within the state while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The term “watercraft” includes most motorized and non-motorized vessels. (625 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 45/1-2 (2016).) Generally, a person can be convicted of boating under the influence (BUI) for operating a watercraft while:

  • impaired by drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two to a “degree which renders such person incapable of safely” operating the watercraft,
  • having a concentration of five nanograms or more of THC (the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) per milliliter of blood or ten nanograms or more of THC per milliliter of other bodily substance, or
  • having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater.

(625 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 45/5-16(A)(1) (2016).)

BUI Penalties

The consequences of an Illinois BUI conviction depend on the circumstances of the case. But generally, the penalties are:

  • First offense. A standard first-offense BUI is a class A misdemeanor and carries up to $2,600 in fines and 364 days in jail.
  • Second offense. Where a BUI offender has at least one prior BUI conviction, the second offense will be a class 4 felony, which carries up to three years in prison and $25,000 in fines.
  • BUI involving serious injury. If a BUI offender is involved in an accident that causes “great bodily harm” or “permanent disability or disfigurement” to another person, the offense will be a class 4 felony, which carries up to three years in prison and $25,000 in fines.
  • BUI on suspended operator’s privilege. If a boater gets a BUI while the boater’s privilege to operate a watercraft is suspended because of a BUI-related offense, the offense will be a class 4 felony, which carries up to three years in prison and $25,000 in fines.
  • BUI involving death. Where a BUI offender is involved in an accident that causes the death of another person, the offense will be a class 2 felony and carry a three to 14-year prison sentence and up to $25,000 in fines.

And for any BUI where there was a passenger in the watercraft under 16 years old, there’s a minimum fine of $500, and the operator must do at least five days of community services in a program benefitting children.

(625 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 45/5-16(A) (2016).)

Operator’s Privilege Suspension

Illinois law imposes a one-year operator’s privilege suspension for certain misdemeanor BUIs and a three-year suspension for all felony BUIs.

(625 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 45/5-16(A)(6) (2016).)

HOW MUCH TIME WOULD YOU ACTUALLY SPEND IN JAIL?

Sentencing law is complex. For example, a statute might list a “minimum” jail sentence that’s longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including credits for good in-custody behavior and jail-alternative work programs.

If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your jurisdiction will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.

Talk to an Attorney

BUI law is complicated and changes frequently. If you’ve been arrested for boating under the influence, get in touch with a knowledgeable attorney. An experienced BUI attorney can help you understand how the law applies to the facts of your case. 

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