Driving a motor vehicle under the influence can result in serious consequences and most people are well aware that drunk driving is illegal. However, in Alabama, you can be charged with a DUI not just in your motor vehicle but also while at the helm of a boat as well. Operating a boat while drunk is a serious criminal offense and the penalties for boaters in boating accidents this upcoming summer could be harsher.
A DUI attorney in Birmingham can help if you are arrested for drunk driving or are charged with intoxicated boating. You need to protect your record and you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible for help defending yourself against the charges.
Penalties Are harsher for DUI Boating Charges
According to the Piedmont Journal, the penalty for a boater who kills or injures someone while driving impaired is now going to be similar to the penalty for a drunk driving death. Previously, a person responsible for a drunk boating death was charged with "homicide by vessel." This was an unclassified felony, and the maximum penalty was five years of imprisonment. Now, a death caused by drunk boating is considered a Class C felony and the prison sentence could be as long as 10 years.
The Alabama legislature acted to toughen the laws because alcohol is the leading contributing factor of boating accidents - causing about 17 percent of fatalities in 2012. A prosecutor who campaigned for the bill indicated that the new penalties will "elevate awareness about the dangers and the risks of boating under the influence."
Unfortunately, many boaters may not be aware of the harsher penalties or even be aware that the same DUI laws that apply to driving a car also apply to boating. This can result in a boater facing criminal charges when he didn't know he was breaking the law.
Boaters, like drivers, can be subject to field sobriety tests and may be required to submit to chemical tests if there is reason to believe that they were impaired while operating their watercraft. However, Fourth Amendment rights protect boaters from unreasonable searches, just as they do for drivers. This means if you were stopped in your boat and given a sobriety test without justification, you may be able to keep the evidence out of court.
Erratic driving of the watercraft, excess speed, violating right-of-way rules and violations of equipment requirements can all be probable cause for getting stopped in your boat. However, unless your actions indicate intoxication, you should not be forced to submit to a BAC test.
An experienced attorney can help you to determine if your rights were violated in either a drunk driving arrest or an arrest for boating while impaired. Call a lawyer as soon as possible after you have been charged for help making your case, negotiating a plea bargain or exploring options for defending yourself and avoiding penalties.
Contact Barclay Law at 866-584-1023 or visit http://www.jmbarclaylaw.com to schedule a consultation with a criminal defense lawyer in Birmingham. Serving South Side, Titusville, Red Mountain, Woodlawn, Ensley and surrounding areas.