Boating is a popular pastime in South Carolina and for some, an afternoon of boating may involve the consumption of alcohol. However, South Carolina prohibits boaters from operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol. If your boating excursion involves an arrest for boating under the influence (BUI)(S.C. Code §50-21-112., (1976)), you may be wondering what happens next.
Presumption of Impairment
In South Carolina, you are considered under the influence of alcohol if you are impaired “to the extent that the person’s faculties to operate are materially and appreciably impaired.” There is a presumption of impairment under the law depending on your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC).
If your BAC was less than 0.05%, it will be presumed that you were not under the influence of alcohol. However, if your BAC was 0.08% or higher, you will be presumed to be under the influence of alcohol by the court or a jury. If your BAC was in between 0.05% and 0.08% there is no presumption that you were or were not impaired.
The penalty for boating under the influence (BUI) will vary depending on whether you have had previous offenses or if property damage, injury, or death were involved in the incident.
- BUI 1st — The first offense for BUI is a misdemeanor. The penalties can include jail time from 48 hours to 30 days, a fine, or community service. Your boating privileges will be suspended for 6 months.
- BUI 2nd — Penalties for a second BUI can include jail time from 48 hours to 1 year and up to a $5,000 fine. You may also be sentenced to community service instead of jail time. There will also be a suspension of your boating privileges for 1 year.
- BUI 3rd — A third BUI can result in jail time from 60 days to 3 years and up to a $6,000 fine. You will lose your boating privileges for 3 years.
Offenses will only be counted as a 2nd or 3rd offense if the previous offenses took place within 10 years. If not, the offense will reset to a BUI 1st. A conviction of any BUI will result in the guilty party having to take a boater’s safety course prior to their privilege to operate water device being reinstated.
If the BUI incident involves major injury or death, it would be considered a felony and would result in enhanced penalties. If the injury to another person is “serious bodily injury,” the penalties would be up to 15 years imprisonment and up to $10,000 in fines. Boating privileges would be suspended for 3 years. If the incident involves the death of an individual, the boater could receive up to a $25,000 fine, 25 years in prison, and a 3-year boating suspension.
In South Carolina, boating under the influence is not the same as Driving Under the Influence and does not count against your license to operate a motor vehicle.