A day on the water is meant to be fun…but if you are suspected of operating your craft while intoxicated, your trip to the lake can land you in jail. In the Cleveland, Ohio area, you can be charged with boating under the influence (BUI)—also known as boating while intoxicated (BWI)—under often lower standards of evidence than would be required to charge you with drunk driving or operating a vehicle under the influence (OVI).
While an arrest is a jarring experience for anyone, you should know that there is a wide gap between being charged and being convicted. If you’ve been arrested for BUI, there are many defenses available to you. Prosecutors are required to prove that you were intoxicated while operating your vessel, but because of the conditions specific to boating – the motion of the water, the heat of the day, and glare from the sun – the sobriety tests administered by law enforcement can and should be challenged. The Cleveland criminal defense attorneys at Patituce & Associates are extremely experienced defense lawyers who’re also former prosecutors.
You’re won’t find a better defense team to represent you against potentially damaging charges!
BUI is charged under O.R.C. 1547.11, Operation, control, or manipulation under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The offense is a first degree misdemeanor and, if you’re convicted, you can be sentenced to up to six months in jail, along with a $1,000 fine. You are also subject to the implied consent law, which means that as the operator of a vessel in state waters, you are obligated to submit to breath or chemical testing, or face a charge for refusal. Conviction on a refusal charge can include an order keeping you off the water for a year.
BUI can be difficult for prosecutors to prove. Under Ohio law, local law enforcement (city marine police patrols, county police, state police, Ohio Division of Watercraft) must have probable cause to stop or board your vessel, which means that prosecutors have to start by proving that officers had a clear reason to interact with you.
Federal law enforcement, including the Coast Guard, can perform safety checks without probable cause. During a safety check, you may be subjected to a series of sobriety tests, which is typically when officers decide whether you’re in violation. The good news for you is that these tests are subject to challenge by your attorney.
A boat on the water is subject to a variety of forces—even when the motor isn’t engaged, and that motion from surf and wind makes field sobriety tests suspect. Many people who go from a mostly-indoor life during the week and spend a weekend day out in the sun also suffer some deleterious effects from the heat and glare. This can cause you to appear intoxicated, even when you’re not. All of this can be used for your defense.
If you’ve been charged with BUI / BWI in the Cleveland, Ohio area, you have every reason to fight to clear your name. Patituce & Associates can help. Call (440) 709-8088 for a free consultation.