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Boating Under the Influence

There are an abundance of beautiful waterways and lakes in DuPage and Cook Counties. During the late spring and summer months, boating is a great recreational activity for many residents and visitors. Alongside boating, for the adults at least, some like to have a drink or two to enhance the experience – it's all part of the greater social picture. For many of you though, you may not know that the police patrol boaters just as they do motorists. Their presence on the lakes may not be as obvious but they are out there. And they are arresting people for boating under the influence (BUI).

At Dolci & Weiland, we understand how a boating under the influence charge can come as a shock. The impact of a conviction is even more shocking because it ranks right up there with DUIs. Here's an overview of BUIs in Illinois. If you have been arrested for the same or have additional questions, contact our office today.

What is boating under the influence (BUI) according to Illinois law?

Boating under the influence is outlined in 625 ILCS 45/5-16 where it states that a person can be ahargedwith boating under the influence a couple of ways.

  1. You must have been in actual physical control of a watercraft.
  2. You must show at least one of the below:
  • your blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.08% or greater;
  • you are under the influence of alcohol that impairs your ability safely operate a watercraft;
  • your faculties are impaired to the point you cannot safely operate a watercraft because you are under the influence of any other drug or intoxicating compound;
  • your faculties are impaired to the point you cannot safely operate a watercraft because you are under the influence of any combination of alcohol, drugs, or intoxicating compounds.

The prosecutor has the burden to prove its case, meaning you are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by the State.

What are the penalties for a conviction of an Illinois BUI?

If you are convicted of a BUI in Illinois, the sentence will be determined on a number of things, including:

  • classification of the charge
  • prior DUIs or BUIs
  • prior criminal record overall
  • aggravating circumstances.

A first-time BUI conviction with no aggravating circumstances is typically filed as a Class A misdemeanor while circumstances that involve aggravating circumstances (e.g., a car accident) can be filed as a felony. A BUI is charged as a Class 4 felony if you have any prior convictions of BUIs or if you caused great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement to another person. A BUI is charged as a Class 4 felony if you caused 

  • Class A misdemeanors are punishable in Illinois by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
  • Class 4 felonies are punishable with a prison sentence of between one and three years and a fine of up to $25,000.
  • Class 2 felonies are punishable with a prison sentence of between three and seven years and a fine of up to $25,000.

In addition to a court-ordered sentences, you face other penalties that are collateral to a criminal record. These collateral consequences include:

  • The Department of Natural Resources will suspend your watercraft operation privileges for one year after a conviction of a misdemeanor BUI or three years after a conviction of a felony BUI.
  • If you are a recreational boat operator, your license could be suspended or revoked – that could mean a challenge to your livelihood.
  • Your driving privileges could also be affected – your driver's  license could be suspended or revoked.
  • With a criminal record, employment or a professional career could be in question, e.g. you could be denied a professional license or security clearance.

There can be other consequences of a conviction of a BUI, too. The point is that there is a lot at stake if you don't fight the allegations.

Are there any defenses to an Illinois BUI?

A BUI charge can be shocking, and the bulk of the persons charged with this type of crime are otherwise good citizens. These are people who have families and responsibilities and who don't have the time for a criminal case. And so, for many of them, they think the answer is to plead guilty or no contest – as if that'll help make it all go away sooner. The problem, as above-mentioned, it doesn't just go away but persists. A criminal record remains with you and follows you through life. 

So, before you plead guilty, know that to prevent the penalties and collateral consequences associated with a conviction, you must fight the charge. Fortunately, BUI charges are defensible. Here's a few examples of how this charge can be defended against.

  • Sometimes officers perform an illegal search and seizure. If this is the case for you, the evidence that flowed from the unlawful search can be suppressed.
  • Sometimes patrol may request that you perform field sobriety tests. These tests are largely subjective and can be successfully challenged.
  • If the breathalyzer or breath machine was improperly handled or not calibrated according to regulations, then the result could be excluded from evidence.
  • If the breath or blood sample was improperly handled or a gap exists in the chain of custody, then the results could be excluded.
  • The tests used to determine your BAC could be inaccurate – an experienced BUI attorney would have the ability to identify when this has occurred – or they may simply be false-positives.
  • There are many reasons other than alcohol that can induce the appearance if impaired faculties. 

Who should you contact if you have been arrested for a BUI in the greater Chicago metro area?

A charge of a BUI can be intimidating. You need a competent, aggressive BUI defense attorney in the Chicago metro area to help you fight the charges so you can get on with your life. Contact us at Dolci & Weiland to schedule a free initial consultation today.