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Boating while intoxicated: Were you pulled over at a checkpoint?

Boating while intoxicated, or BUI, laws exist to keep boat operators, their passengers and others on the waterway safe. However, just because these laws exist doesn't mean they're always accurately enforced.

Let's say you've invited your best friend to join you for a day of waterskiing. Inadvertently, you drink too much alcohol, so you pass over the controls to your completely sober friend. If your boat is pulled over by authorities at a BUI checkpoint, however, they might inadvertently charge you with a BUI since you're the boat owner.

When defending yourself against BUI charges in this kind of situation, it would be important to show that your friend was operating the boat, not you.

BUI checkpoint basics

Federal, state and local law enforcement officials have been using BUI checkpoints around the nation to enforce boating while intoxicated laws. At a BUI checkpoint, water-bound law enforcement officials will stop boaters randomly - 'probable cause' may not be required - and check for signs of intoxication.

Law enforcement offices often name BUI checkpoints to build public awareness. For example, they might name a campaign "Operation Dry Water." These campaigns are just as much about removing intoxicated boaters from the water as they are about building publicity, and making enforcement efforts more visible as a deterrent.

Penalties for BUI

Virginia boat operators who are convicted of BUI might suffer the revocation or suspension of their boating licenses. This means that recreational boat operators might have to put their weekend fun on hold until the suspension has ended. The conviction could also affect one's ability to drive a motor vehicle in some cases.

Monetary fines, boat and car insurance rate hikes, and drug and alcohol counseling requirements - just like in a motor vehicle-related DUI - are likely. For commercial boat operators, the consequences of BUI are more severe because professional boaters will likely lose their licenses and livelihoods.

Stay safe and don't boat under the influence

The best way to avoid a boating while intoxicated conviction is to stay safe and never operate a boat after drinking alcohol. Nevertheless, officers make mistakes, and boaters make mistakes, too.

Regardless of the facts and circumstances surrounding your BUI, take your BUI defense seriously. Even if the evidence against you is particularly strong and conviction is likely, you may benefit from a well-organized criminal defense.

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