Understand South Carolina’s BUI laws before hitting the water

On Behalf of | May 8, 2014 | Boating Under The Influence

Summertime heat is on the way, and South Carolina residents might be making plans for the coming months. For those who own a boat or intend to operate one in the coming months, it may be essential to understand how boating under the influence laws are similar or different from land-based violations.

The reality is that some people might enjoy having an alcoholic beverage while aboard a boat. Although South Carolina’s open container laws don’t necessarily include watercraft, boat operators could still face charges for being intoxicated.

According to state law, it is illegal to operate a motorized watercraft — or even a sailboat — while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The law indicates that charges can be filed if a person’s ability to operate a motorized or non-motorized boat is materially or appreciably impaired. Again, this is a case in which a person could be charged for BUI, even if a breath test doesn’t provide a reading of 0.08 percent or higher. Rather, the violation could come as a result of a law enforcement officers personal judgment.

South Carolina statute also sets forth the consequences for being convicted of BUI. First-time offenders are subject to the following penalties:

  • A fine of $200.
  • Jail time ranging from 48 hours to 30 days.
  • The judge can also order the individual to complete 48 hours of community service instead of time behind bars.
  • Inability to operate a watercraft for six months.

Additional convictions only raise the stakes for punishment. For example, a second BUI offense could cause a person to be imprisoned for up to one year, which is obviously a major burden.

A final item to keep in mind is how prior charges for driving a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol could impact a BUI case. Depending on the circumstances, a person could be considered for especially stringent penalties upon conviction.

Source: WestLaw, SC Code 1976 § 50-21-112

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