Se Habla Español | Available 24/7
Multilingual Staff | Available 24/7

Operation of Watercraft Under the Influence

Understanding the Implications of OUI

It is illegal to operate or be in actual physical control of any watercraft within Illinois while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, and/or intoxicating compounds. The term “watercraft” refers to most motorized and non-motorized vessels.

A person can be convicted of OUI for operating any watercraft while:

  • Impaired by alcohol, drugs, other “intoxicating compounds,” or a combination of any or all to such a degree that the individual is not capable of safely operating the watercraft

  • Having a concentration of 5 nanograms or more of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana per milliliter of blood or 10 nanograms or more of THC per milliliter of a different bodily substance

  • Having a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or greater

In general – one can be charged with an OUI based on an actual perceived impairment (according to the arresting law enforcement officer’s discretion) or any amount of drugs, alcohol or intoxicating compounds, or any combination of the above, in your system.

What Does Boating Under the Influence Mean?

BUI, or Boating Under the Influence, occurs when a person operates a watercraft under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Depending on the state, BUI laws may include operating vessels with motor and/or sails, including canoes, kayaks, rowboats, and personal watercraft (PWC) such as jet skis.

The laws can vary from state to state, but generally speaking, it’s illegal to operate a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This means that if a person’s alcohol concentration is above the legal limit in the state they are operating their vehicle in, then they are considered to be operating under the influence.

OUI Penalties

Each case/incident/situation is unique, and the consequences of an Illinois OUI depend on the circumstances and presented facts. Generally, the penalties are as follows:

  • 1st OUI Offense: A standard first-offense OUI is a Class A Misdemeanor carrying up to $2,500 in fines and up to 364 days in jail.

  • 2nd OUI Offense. If an OUI offender has at least 1 prior OUI conviction, the 2nd offense can be a Class 4 Felony, which carries up to 3 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.

  • OUI involving serious injury: If an OUI offender is involved in an accident that causes “great bodily harm” or “permanent disability or disfigurement” to another person, the offense will be a Class 4 felony, which carries up to 3 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.

  • OUI on Suspended Operator’s privilege: If a watercraft operator gets an OUI while the boater’s privilege to operate a watercraft is suspended because of an OUI-related offense, the offense will be a Class 4 Felony, which carries up to 3 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.

  • OUI involving Death: Where an OUI offender is involved in an accident that causes the death of another person, the offense will be a Class 2 Felony and carry a 3 to 14-year prison sentence and up to $25,000 in fines.

And for any OUI with a passenger in the watercraft under 16 years old, there’s a minimum fine of $500.00, and the operator must complete at least 5 days of community service.

Operator’s Privilege Suspension

Illinois law imposes a 1-year operator’s privilege suspension for certain Misdemeanor OUIs and a three-year suspension for all Felony OUIs.

Prevention and Safety Measures

Preventing OUI is crucial not just for the operator of the watercraft but also for the safety of everyone else onboard and in the surrounding area. Prudent measures can go a long way in averting accidents and ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience on the water. Here are some key safety measures:

  • Designate a Sober Skipper: This person should refrain from consuming alcohol or using drugs while operating the boat, ensuring the ability to navigate safely and respond quickly to changing conditions.

  • Limit Alcohol Consumption: Even passengers should moderate their intake as excess alcohol can impair judgment, leading to dangerous situations or hindering rescue efforts.

  • Understand and Respect Laws: Familiarize yourself with local and state boating laws. Law enforcement officers are vigilant in maintaining water safety; knowing the laws can prevent violations and subsequent penalties.

  • Voluntary Testing: Voluntary chemical tests can clear doubts if there’s any suspicion of being under the influence. Remember, if a person refuses to submit to a chemical test, their boating privileges may be revoked.

Although recreational boating should be enjoyed by all in a safe, responsible manner, alcohol or drug-related OUI can lead to criminal charges that could have long-term consequences, including fines, loss of privilege to operate a vessel, and even jail time. Knowing the laws and taking the appropriate actions can help ensure a safe experience without legal repercussions.

Schedule a Free Consultation With Hirsch Law Group for Help

OUI law is complicated and is constantly being updated and modified. If you have been arrested for boating under the influence (BUI), please contact one of our knowledgeable attorneys. An experienced OUI attorney can help you understand how the law applies to the facts of your case.