In addition to Ohio’s impaired driving laws, Ohio also criminalizes operating or having physical control of a vessel on the waters in this state while impaired. Ohio has a separate statute for boating while under the influence (ORC 1547.11). Much like Ohio’s OVI statute, this offense prohibits operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs as well as operating a boat with a prohibited level of alcohol or drugs in one’s systems. The prohibited level of alcohol is the same as it is for an OVI (>.08 for a breath test); however, there are no additional penalties for testing over a .17 as there would be for a high-tier OVI.
The penalties for a BUI are similar to an OVI. Both are first-degree misdemeanors and carry mandatory penalties. The mandatory minimum BUI penalties, like OVI penalties, are enhanced and more severe if a defendant has prior BUIs. Unlike OVI, however, there are no felony BUIs. A first-offense BUI requires a minimum sentence of three days in jail and a maximum jail term of six months. A defendant may serve those mandatory three days in a three-day drivers’ intervention program. The minimum fine for a BUI is $150, and the maximum fine is $1,000. A BUI, though, does not result in a defendant having his or her driver’s license suspended.
A key distinction between BUI and OVI is that boaters do not have operator’s licenses to suspend, so the law does not provide for license suspensions and does not contain comparable administrative license suspensions. However, if a person arrested for OVI refuses to submit to a chemical test then he or she will be suspended from operating or being in physical control of a watercraft as well as from registering any watercraft for one year from the date of the alleged violation.
One potential resolution in a BUI case is to enter a plea to a reduced charge of reckless or unsafe operation of a vessel under ORC 1547.07. This offense is a fourth-degree misdemeanor and carries a maximum fine of $250 and a maximum of 30 days in jail. There are no mandatory penalties associated with this offense and it is not an alcohol-related offense.
Defending BUIs can often be very similar to defending OVIs as many of the same issues, such as field sobriety testing and compliance with the department of health’s regulations for chemical testing, are often present in both situations. If you have been charged with a BUI, our office has the experience to effectively assist you. Contact our offices today to schedule a confidential consultation with one of our experienced lawyers.