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Boating DUI Alert

Sonoma County Boating DUI BUI

BUI Alert: Boating DUI Enforcement Expected in Sonoma County June 29-July 2 Weekend Before July 4th Holiday

Northern California boaters should expect to see increased BUI (Boating Under the Influence) enforcement at local recreational waterways in Napa, Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties this weekend. BUI checkpoints and increased patrols are held nationwide each year, just before the Fourth of July weekend, in conjunction with the "Operation Dry Water" effort started in 2009 by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators in partnership with the United States Coast Guard, touted as a successful effort to draw public attention to the hazards of boating under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Sonoma County DUI lawyers say that several such efforts were conducted last year in and around Sonoma County. See, for example, Lake County 2011 BUI Enforcement, Sonoma County 2012 BUI Enforcement, Napa County 2013 BUI Enforcement, a list of 2016 Participating Agencies, and Lake County 2017. For a list of 2017 participating agencies, including Sonoma County and Lake County, click here: 2017 Participating BUI Agencies.

BUI Legal Analysis: Boating Under the Influence in Sonoma County, Laws & Penalties

Sonoma Boating DUI BUI

In Sonoma County, Boating Under the Influence ("BUI") is very similar to a DUI with respect to the nature of the crime alleged (in other words, the elements of the crime are very similar even though one is operating a boat in the water and the other is driving a car on the road), but the penalties for a typical first offense BUI are often very different than the penalties for a typical first offense DUI. Sonoma DUI attorneys know that you can be arrested for a DUI in a surprisingly variety of "vehicles" and situations outside of the traditional car on a road. To see Jake's colorful examples, click here: Can I Get a DUI Riding a...?

With respect to boating DUIs in Sonoma County, first, understand that, whereas the laws controlling DUIs are in Vehicle Code Sections 23152(a) and (b), the laws controlling BUIs are not in the vehicle code, but rather in the California Harbors and Navigation Code: HNC 655(b),(c), or HNC 655.6 for zero tolerance under-21 cases. For the full boating safety statutory scheme, see HNC 650 et. seq. But similar to the vehicle code prohibitions on driving under the influence or with .08% or more blood alcohol (BAC), the applicable HNC sections outlaw operating a vessel under the influence, and operating a vessel with a BAC of 0.08% or more. You can already see that there are subtle differences between DUIs and BUIs, such as "driving versus operating," and what exactly is "a vessel," but the essence of the charges are basically the same, and both are misdemeanor offenses under California law.

Sonoma Sheriff BUIWhat good Santa Rosa DUI lawyers know for certain is that penalties are vastly different, if a case actually results in a conviction for a BUI. One may be able to avoid jail completely, and even get misdemeanor diversion (essentially the case would be dismissed without a conviction) in certain BUI cases, whereas diversion or avoiding jail (or a jail alternative) is nearly impossible with a typical Sonoma County DUI conviction.

Sonoma BUI StingA Sonoma County DUI lawyer who understands these differences will also tell you that there are no direct DMV consequences from a first-time BUI; in other words there is no license suspension in the typical BUI case, as compared to a typical DUI where there is usually some time off the road due to a license suspension. Years ago, the DMV utilized the practice of suspending driver licenses upon conviction for a BUI, but DUI lawyers fought and won that issue, stopping driver license suspensions for a single BUI conviction. See, Cinquegrani v. DMV, 163 CA4th 741 (2008). The remaining consequences to be expected, particularly if diversion is not obtained, would be a fine, and sometimes a DUI program of weekly 2-hour classes for six weeks. An experienced Santa Rosa DUI attorney can analyze your specific situation and give you a good sense of the penalty exposure you may be facing in your unique case.

It is important to note that a BUI conviction counts as a prior conviction in a later DUI case (see, CVC 23620), and therefore, although the penalties for a first BUI are typically far less severe than a first DUI, it is important to speak with a good Sonoma County DUI lawyer about your specific case to determine if, not only may all the consequences may be avoided completely, but also can you protect your legal future against a tough "second DUI" conviction in the event that you are unfortunate enough to be faced with an unanticipated vehicle DUI arrest later which would have otherwise been a standard first DUI charge but for a prior BUI conviction.


Any result portrayed was dependent on the facts of that case, and the results will differ if based on different facts.

Our DUI Lawyers

Dave Jake Schwartz is an Honors Graduate from UC Hastings Law School, and UC Davis, former Federal Judicial Clerk, and Nationally Qualified Sobriety Tests Practitioner. Member of the California Bar for 30 years, Sonoma County resident for over 20 years, handles only DUI cases, including thousands of Sonoma County DUIs and DMV hearings: first/multiple offenders, minors, seniors, tourists, undocumented immigrants, veterans, probation violations, suspended license, public intoxication, open container, minor in possession, child endangerment, collisions, hit and run, evading, resisting arrest.


Dave Jake Schwartz