In the late summer months, local authorities in Washington state begin their BUI (Boating Under the Influence) patrols in earnest. Whether it’s at traditional events such as Seafair Weekend or just your average sunny weekend, the lakes and Puget Sound attract a great deal of boating traffic. Consequently, there is a much greater emphasis on BUI enforcement. This primer is intended to help those who will be on the water this summer stay safe as well as to understand and avoid the consequences of a BUI.
A BUI is not the same as a DUI
Unlike its driving related counterpart, and despite the similarity of the moniker, there are major differences between the two offenses. The first, and probably most apparent, is that being accused or convicted of BUI, because it is not driving related, does not carry with it any drivers licensing consequences. No license suspension, no mandatory SR22 insurance, and no ignition interlock device. Also, unlike DUI, there are no mandatory minimum sentencing penalties, That means no mandatory jail and no required period of probation. Also unlike a DUI conviction, a BUI conviction can ultimately be vacated from one’s record
BUI and DUI Similarities
The most important similarity is probably that prosecuting agencies tend to prosecute both types of cases with the same vigor and zeal. Whether operating a vehicle or a vessel while impaired, the possibility of causing great bodily injury or property damage is equally real. Prosecutors don’t differentiate between the roadways or the waterways and will normally seek jail time for BUI convictions even though it is not mandated by statute. Also, because of the alcohol and/or drug-related nature of the two offenses, there are some similarities, a conviction for BUI, like DUI, will mean obtaining a drug and alcohol evaluation and follow through with any treatment recommendations.
Washington BUI Patrols
When patrolling the waterways for BUI suspects, police look for certain behaviors. Some are obvious such as operating the boat in a dangerous or reckless manner. Others, like wake limit violations, are a little more subtle. The best advice, as always, is to be careful. Be cognizant of the boat traffic around you, wear life preservers (and make sure those that are required do so are wearing theirs), and avoid openly flaunting open container violations. While a BUI may not be ultimately as serious as DUI, it will still cost a significant amount in time resources to defend. Be smart, be safe and have fun.