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Defending Against a Boating Under the Influence Charge in Alabama


Boating is a beloved pastime in Alabama, offering residents and visitors alike the opportunity to enjoy the state’s scenic waterways. However, with these recreational activities comes the responsibility to operate water craft safely and legally. One serious charge that boaters can face is Boating Under the Influence (BUI). If you find yourself charged with BUI in Alabama, it’s crucial to understand the legal landscape and how to effectively defend yourself.

Understanding BUI in Alabama

Under Alabama law, Boating Under the Influence is treated similarly to Driving Under the Influence (DUI). A person is considered to be boating under the influence if they operate a watercraft while having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, are under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or any combination thereof, to the extent that their normal faculties are impaired.

The penalties for BUI can be severe and include fines, imprisonment, mandatory substance abuse programs, and the suspension of boating privileges. The vessel operator could also receive civil penalties from the United States Coast Guard. Given the seriousness of these consequences, utilization of an effective defense is essential.

Key Strategies for Defending a BUI Charge

Challenge the Stop or Arrest Procedures

  • Reasonable Suspicion:  Law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion to stop your boat. If they did not have a valid reason, any evidence gathered as a result of the stop might be inadmissible in court.
  • Probable Cause for Arrest: Similarly, there must be probable cause for your arrest. If the officer lacked sufficient evidence to believe you were under the influence, this could be grounds for dismissal. It should be noted that a safety check is likely a lawful stop when boating whereas it would not be when driving a motor vehicle.

Question the Field Sobriety Tests

  • Proper Administration: Field sobriety tests (FSTs) must be administered according to standardized guidelines. If the officer did not follow proper procedures, the validity of these tests can be contested.
  • Environmental Conditions: The conditions under which the FSTs were conducted can also be questioned. Factors like uneven surfaces, poor lighting, or adverse weather conditions can affect your performance and the reliability of the results.

Scrutinize the Chemical Tests

  • Accuracy of Testing Devices: Breathalyzers and other testing devices must be properly maintained and calibrated. Any issues with these devices can lead to inaccurate BAC readings.
  • Chain of Custody: The prosecution must establish a clear chain of custody for blood or urine samples. Any lapses or contamination can render the evidence inadmissible.

Medical Conditions and Prescription Medications

  • Medical Defenses: Certain medical conditions can mimic signs of intoxication or affect BAC readings. Conditions such as diabetes, hypoglycemia, or neurological disorders may be relevant to your defense.
  • Legitimate Medication Use: If you were taking prescription medications that could have influenced the test results or your behavior, this information can be crucial. Ensure you provide documentation from your healthcare provider.

Witness Testimonies and Evidence

  • Witness Statements: Testimonies from passengers or other witnesses who can attest to your sobriety and behavior before and during the boating trip can be persuasive.
  • Video Evidence: If available, video footage from the boat or nearby cameras can provide an objective view of the events and your condition.

Negotiate for Lesser Charges or Penalties

  • Plea Bargaining:  In some cases, negotiating with the prosecution for a plea to a lesser charge or reduced penalties may be in your best interest, especially if the evidence against you is strong.

Facing a BUI charge in Alabama is a serious matter that requires careful attention and a strategic approach. By challenging the legality of the stop, the accuracy of the tests, and considering any medical conditions, you can build a strong defense. Consulting with an experienced attorney who specializes in BUI cases is essential to navigate the complexities of the legal system and to advocate effectively on your behalf. With the right defense, you can work towards a favorable outcome and protect your rights and freedoms on Alabama’s waterways.

At Brackin Law Firm we take BUI charges seriously, having successfully defend such charges many times over the years. If you have been charged with Boating Under the Influence, contact us today to discuss your options.

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