A long-time member of the San Pablo Police Department was arrested on DUI charges over the holiday weekend. This arrest occurred just a matter of hours after his wife had been arrested for operating a watercraft under the influence of alcohol. He has been placed on administrative leave and been temporarily suspended.
Although we often hear of instances in which an individual person is arrested for driving a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol (CA Vehicle Code 23152(a)), it is rarer to hear of someone’s arrest for a DUI while operating a watercraft. Usually, this violation of the law is referred to as a ‘DUI Boating,’ or BUI. According to California law (California Harbors and Navigation Code 655), it is as illegal to operate a boat or other watercraft while under the influence as it is any other type of motor vehicle. This includes water vessels of any kind, like aquaplanes and even water skis.
Usually, law enforcement officers are alerted to the suspected impairment of a particular boater or skier by their behavior. For example, driving a watercraft erratically, speeding, and right-of-way violations may attract the unwanted attention of peace officers. These agents may ask you to perform a field sobriety test and/or various types of chemical testing in order to determine whether your BAC (blood alcohol content) is either at or above the limit – .08% (the same system used for DUIs that do not involve watercraft).
Penalties for violating CA HNC 655 vary greatly. If you have been convicted of a first-offense BUI, you may end up spending up to 6 months in county jail and paying around $1,000 in fines. However, if you have any priors (including certain kinds of DUIs), then the consequences become a bit harsher. You could spend 1 year in county jail, pay a $1,000 fine, and expect to be forced to complete a state-approved California DUI school for a period of anywhere from 18 to 30 months.