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Federal drunk driving charges possible for offshore boaters

Due to this year's unseasonably cold and snowy winter, going for a boat ride might only be a distant thought in the minds of South Carolina residents. Hopefully, however, warmer weather will soon be here and boating enthusiasts can hit the water.

One thing that may accompany many boat trips, especially if friends are along, is drinking. Although it might be nice to enjoy a beer on a long day on the lake or ocean, boaters should know that drunk driving laws apply to both water and land. Much like drivers, boat operators can be charged under state law if they have a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher. Additionally, it may be possible for federal boating under the influence charges to be filed in some cases, which may come as a surprise to many people.

Of course, many drunk driving cases are handled by state law enforcement officials, but the U.S. Coast Guard can enforce BUI laws if watercraft are far enough offshore. An important thing to note, according to the Coast Guard, is that this federal law applies to any type of boat -- including canoes and other non-motorized boats.

Federal criminal charges can include consequences that are more significant than criminal issues handled at the state level. Knowing this, a person can face very heavy consequences for a one-time mistake. Prosecutors will have federal resources at their disposal to aggressively pursue a conviction, so seeking out trustworthy assistance can help balance the scales.

As the warmer months grow closer, the potential consequences of BUI charges are something to keep in mind. After all, no one wants a fun day on the water to take a dramatic, unfortunate turn.

Source: U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Resource Center, "Boating Under the Influence Initiatives," accessed March 3, 2014

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