In South Carolina, not only is it illegal to drive a car while intoxicated but also to operate a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This article explains South Carolina's restrictions on boating while under the influence (BUI) and the penalties you'll face for a BUI conviction.
South Carolina law prohibits operating a motorboat, jet ski, or sailboat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The law defines "under the influence" as "impairment to the extent that the person's faculties to operate are materially and appreciably impaired." (S.C. Code Ann. § 50-21-112.)
South Carolina law includes "presumptions" about a person's impairment based on blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The presumptions apply to the determination of whether the boater was "under the influence" of alcohol.
Presumption boater was not under the influence. If a boater's BAC was .05% or less, the judge or jury can presume the boater wasn't under the influence. So, for example, a jury could presume a boater who had a BAC of .03% was not under the influence. But the prosecutor would still have the opportunity to convince the jury otherwise—"rebut the presumption"—with evidence of impairment, such as slurred speech and poor field sobriety test (FST) performance. If the jurors are unimpressed with the prosecutor's evidence, they can stick with the presumption that the defendant was not under the influence.
Presumption boater was under the influence. With a BAC of .08% or more, the judge or jury can presume the boater was under the influence. To rebut the presumption, the defense might present evidence of things like safe boat navigation prior to the stop or good FST performance.
No presumption. BACs between 05% and .08% can be considered by the judge or jury, but no presumptions apply.
The consequences of a South Carolina BUI depend on the circumstances of the case. But most BUIs are misdemeanors and the possible penalties are:
For purposes of determining whether an offense is a second or subsequent BUI, only BUI offenses that occurred within the past ten years count.
A BUI offender who causes property damage, injuries, or death while boating under the influence, faces enhanced penalties. These penalties are:
If you've been arrested for or charged with boating under the influence in South Carolina, get in contact with an experienced DUI/BUI attorney. The facts of every case are different. A good attorney should be able to explain how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on your best course of action.