Boating Under the Influence (BUI) in Georgia

Last year, nearly 300 BUI arrests were made on Georgia’s waters including Lake Lanier, Allatoona, Oconee, Sinclair, Jackson, and Hartwell.  BUI is a criminal offense that can result in fines, imprisonment and loss of boating privileges.  Under the Georgia BUI implied consent law, all people boating are deemed to have given consent to have a breath or blood test conducted, at any time, to determine if they are under the influence of alcohol. If you refuse to take a chemical test, the State will try to suspend your boating privileges for 12 months.

Things to remember if your boat is stopped by the Coast Guard, DNR or Marine Patrol

  • Safety checks are permitted on boats without any probable cause or reasonable suspicion. In short, law enforcement does not need a reason to stop you on a lake or river.
  • To avoid safety checks, and pass them when they occur, keep your vessel in compliance with all laws and local ordinances.  This includes keeping all lights working and in their proper position, having an adequate number of life jackets and keeping a pressurized fire extinguisher on-board.
  • It is not illegal in Georgia to have alcohol in an open container on a boat, or for the person operating the boat to have a drink.  It is only illegal if the blood alcohol content of the person operating the boat is .08 percent or higher.  So, don’t panic if you have an open beer, this will only make the officer suspicious.
  • Be polite and cooperative.  Let the officer do his job so he will move on to the next vessel and won’t feel compelled to administer any chemical tests.
  • Georgia has a “zero tolerance” blood alcohol level of .02 for people operating a boat under age 21.
  • Different laws regarding what blood alcohol content is considered over the limit can apply depending on whether the waterway is federal or Georgia.
  • Georgia BUI laws apply to motorboats, sailboats, personal watercrafts (including jet skis), water skis and sailboards.

Do you need an attorney if arrested for BUI?

If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being arrested for BUI in Georgia, you definitely need an experienced attorney. An attorney with the proper resources and contacts can analyze and attack the accuracy of the state’s breath or blood test. An attorney will also help avoid any unwanted ramifications of a BUI, such as having a negative impact on your ability to operate a boat, or being subject to child endangerment laws if there were minors on the boat. Failing to have an attorney may result in a greater punishment, which is never a good outcome.

If you’ve been arrested for BUI on Georgia’s Lake Lanier, Lake Allatoona, Lake Oconee, Lake Sinclair, the Chattahoochee River or any of Georgia’s popular waterways, call Chestney & Sullivan today to discuss your arrest and options with an experienced attorney. Your initial consultation is free, and all information is kept strictly confidential even if you choose not to hire our firm. Contact us at 404-816-8777.