Boating Under The Influence

Free Criminal Case Review at 888-579-4844

Los Angeles BUI Defense Lawyers

Almost one million boats and other watercraft are registered in California. You could be out on the water in California boating, riding a jet ski or even water skiing with friends and having a few drinks on the ocean near the Channel Islands or maybe along the coast out of Marina Del Rey, Oxnard or Ventura; or maybe you are on Pyramid Lake, Lake Elsinore, Lake Piru, Lake Cachuma or Lake Castaic. You feel like you have the boat under control, but because of an accident or some other reason, you are arrested for boating under the influence or for having a blood alcohol level of .08%.

If this happens, you need a defense lawyer immediately. Boating under the influence or drunk boating in California does not simply affect your right to drive a boat. It will also create a California criminal record in the same ways that a California DUI charge does; this includes a possible California driver’s license suspension (even though you are not driving a car!) possible jail time, significant fines and penalties, as well as alcohol programs. Call us at now (888) 579­-4844 for a free consultation to discuss your case and options at our main office in West Los Angeles, or our satellite office locations in Torrance, Pasadena, Glendale, Long Beach, Encino, Woodland Hills, West Covina, Oxnard, Westlake Village, Huntington Beach, and Newport Beach.

Defending against drunk boating charges

In California, a boating under the influence (BUI) conviction will appear just like a drunk driving or DUI on your DMV record. You can lose your right to drive a car, boat, or any other vehicle if convicted of boating under the influence.

  • You need to treat a California BUI arrest with the same level of concern as a California DUI arrest. Heavy fines, jail time, increased insurance rates, and a criminal record are at stake.
  • You may not have performed well on the Field Sobriety Tests. Failure of a field sobriety test could simply be because you were out in the sun, your eyes are red and you’ve been on bouncy water all day.
  • You need a California BUI defense attorney who can explain the law, protect your rights, guide you through the system, and limit the damages of your arrest.
  • Some boating under the influence cases even qualify for misdemeanor diversion and no criminal record!

You must call us within ten days of arrest to stop the automatic California DMV Administrative Per Se Driver’s License Suspension action against your driver license. After being arrested, both the court and the California DMV may take a separate actions (suspend, revoke or delay the license) for the same offense. The California DMV’s action is related only to your driving privilege; the court’s action may involve payment of a fine, jail time, suspension, or revocation of your driving privilege, and completion of a DUI program. Regardless, you need a lawyer experienced with DMV hearings and criminal defense to help you protect your rights aggressively.

These same provisions may apply when you operate any boat, vessel, water skis, aquaplane, etc. (Section 655 California Harbors and Navigation Code) These California boating under the influence (BUI) convictions are also put on your driving record and are considered prior convictions for future DUI or BUI sentencing. A prior boating under the influence conviction can also used in determining the length time of a suspension.

It is legal to drink an alcoholic beverage on a boat in California. However, it is against the law in California to operate a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The legal alcohol level is the same as that for driving, 0.08%. If you are convicted of “BUI” Boating Under the Influence, the California DMV may suspend your driver’s license for up to five years and you may have to pay a fine and court assessments close to $3,000. If you have consumed alcohol and someone is injured or killed in a boating accident, you could be sent to jail or state prison.

Resource links for BUI charges

In California, alcohol is a factor in 25% of all fatal boat accidents. Boat operators must make report a boat accident to Cal Boating when a person dies, disappears, or is injured and requires medical treatment beyond basic first aid; or a report must be made when the damage to a vessel involved is $500 or more. Forms are available online, click here to view them. If you have been ordered to take a boating safety course, visit the California boating website for a list of courses that meet court requirements.

For information on Coast Guard Auxiliary and Power Squadron classes, call (800) SEA-SKIL (732-7545) or (800) 368-5647. The California Division of Boating and Waterways offers a free home study course entitled California Boating Safety Course. For more information, e-mail, phone (916) 263-1331 or toll free (888) 326-2822, write Division of Boating and Waterways, 2000 Evergreen Street, Suite 100, Sacramento, California 95815-3888, or visit their Website at

Stephen Sitkoff

Stephen Sitkoff

Partner and Criminal Defense Attorney

Stephen Sitkoff is a partner at Sitkoff & Hanrahan who started his legal career as a deputy district attorney more than 30 years ago prosecuting cases throughout the LA criminal court system in Southern California.
Eugene Hanrahan@2x

Eugene Hanrahan

Partner and Criminal Defense Attorney

Eugene Hanrahan is both a former federal and county prosecutor and partner at Sitkoff & Hanrahan, LLP with two decades of criminal law experience. Mr. Hanrahan’s criminal defense expertise ranges from misdemeanors to serious, complex felony cases.
James Kim

James Kim

Senior Case Analyst

James possesses over a decade of legal experience and serves as the firm’s senior case analyst handling the initial calls from prospective clients.