Boating Crimes in Georgia
Boating is a very popular activity in Georgia with our numerous lakes and beautiful weather throughout the year. However, there are a number of crimes associated with boating that can take all the fun out of the activity. Boating crimes carry heavy penalties so it is important to be aware of the Georgia boating laws and how to avoid being charged with a criminal offense. The Offices of Lawson and Berry and their Georgia Boating Lawyers have extensive experience with boating crimes and are prepared to assist with your case today. Contact our offices to speak with one of our top rated Boating Lawyers in Georgia.
Boating Laws in Georgia
To protect everyone on the water, Georgia has specific codes and regulations dedicated to people driving boats. Thousands of people enjoy boating every year but still numerous people die each year due to not following boating laws. The laws surrounding boating in Georgia can be found here.
Any person born on or after January 1st, 1998 who wishes to drive a boat must complete a boating education course. The course can be completed online or in person. Some courses are free while others cost $29.99.
The Georgia Boat Safety Act prohibits anyone from boating under the influence. Similarly to DUI, a person may not operate a boat if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is over .08. If the driver is under the influence, they will be charged with boating under the influence. If the driver is under 21 years of age, the limit decreases to .02. Under Georgia law, simply by driving a boat on Georgia waters, you have impliedly consented to being tested for alcohol or drugs if requested by officers. If you refuse the test, you could lose your license to drive a boat for up to one year.
Boating Crimes in Georgia Include
Boating Under the Influence: Boating under the influence occurs when a person operates a watercraft while being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Both boating under the influence and driving under the influence had a BAC limit of .08. They also carry similar punishments. A Georgia Boating Attorney can help you fight your case if charged with BUI.
Homicide by Vessel: Homicide by boat occurs when someone dies because of a watercraft. You could be charged with homicide in the first degree or second degree. Severe penalties accompany this crime and you need a boating lawyer in Georgia.
Serious Injury by Vessel: Serious injury by boat occurs when someone gets severely hurt because of a watercraft. Many people are charged with this crime because of an accident. A Georgia Boating Lawyer can assist in building your defense.
Georgia Case Law
It is very helpful to see how Georgia boating laws play out in court. One example can be found in Bowling v. State. 275. Ga. App. 45, (2005). The accused, Daniel Bowling, was driving on Lake Lanier when an officer with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources observed his boat traveling at night without a stern light. The officer pulled Bowling over to conduct a safety inspection. He asked Bowling to produce a life jacket for everyone on board along with the boat's registration. Bowling appeared confused and was unable to provide either of the requested items. While on board Bowling's vessel, the officer noticed an empty wine glass and detected an order of alcohol coming from Bowling. He also mentioned that Bowling displayed mood swings during the incident and was stumbling. However, when asked if he had been drinking, Bowling replied that he had not.
The officer had Bowling proceed with the field sobriety tests. Bowling was unable to complete the tests, refused to take the breath test, and was placed under arrest for driving under the influence. To be convicted of driving under the influence to the extent it was less safe to drive, the state must demonstrate that Bowling had impaired driving ability as a result of drinking. Further, evidence that the driver was “less safe” can be circumstantial.
In this case, the Court found that Bowling's refusal to submit to chemical testing, his demeanor, and his conduct during the sobriety tests demonstrated that he was impaired and his impairment was a result of alcohol. The Court concluded he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of driving under the influence to the extent it was less safe for him to do so.
Possible Penalties Associated With A Boating Crime Conviction
A conviction for boating under the influence will be treated as a misdemeanor and carries a penalty of a $1,000 fine, one year in jail, or both. However, a conviction for serious injury by vessel or homicide by vessel will generally be categorized as a felony. Felony convictions have hefty fines and long prison times as well as the consequences for a felony conviction. Furthermore, some convictions will also suspend your boating privileges for up to three years. Lastly, convictions for boating crimes may require the defendant to attend a boater safety course. A Georgia Boating Attorney can help mitigate the punishments you may receive.
Defenses a Georgia Boating Lawyer Can Use to Fight Your Charge
First, if you are not guilty of one of the predicate offenses such as DUI etc., then you cannot be guilty of felony serious injury by vessel.
Second, your Boating Attorney in Georgia will look into is what speed exactly you were going (if it applies to your case). If you can prove that you were adhering to idle speed, then you cannot be guilty of homicide by vessel in the first degree.
Third, if you can demonstrate that you were not under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or toxic vapors, then your Georgia Boating Lawyer will move to have the charges reduced or dismissed because of your particular circumstances.
We understand the seriousness of boating charges and we are prepared to help you fight your case. Our office is here 24/7 including nights, weekends, and holidays. Let our experienced Boating Attorneys in Georgia firm assist with your case today.