BUI – Boating Under the Influence in Orange County remains a rising crime in Orange County, especially in Newport Harbor, Dana Point Harbor, and in Huntington Beach Harbor. Alcohol remains the leading factor in deadly boating accidents, according to a new report released by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Changes to BUI laws
In Pennsylvania, legislators hope to change that by toughening boating under the influence laws.
“Boating, for me, actually is therapeutic. Being out in nature is a big draw I think for myself and a lot of other folks,” said Mike Nerozzi, director for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
While he enjoys being on the water, he warns it comes with risks if people don’t do it responsibly.
“People get out on the water and don’t realize the dangers that come with operating under the influence. Really you are at the immediate risk of drowning and losing your life,” said Nerozzi.
Laws come down on Boating Under the Influence cases severely
“Here in Pennsylvania, over the last five years, alcohol has been a contributing factor in an average of 20 to 25 percent of boating fatalities,” said Nerozzi.
A new bill with bipartisan support in Pennsylvania aims at making BUI laws stricter by counting BUI and DUI offenses together.
According to Nerozzi, there’s a loophole that allows first-time DUI offenders eligible for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) to be eligible for ARD a second time.
In most cases, Pennsylvania’s ARD program allows a person’s criminal record to be expunged after completing probation.
“If someone is to get into their car and get a DUI they are deemed to be eligible as a first-time offender for ARD. They can technically get a subsequent BUI offense, and be eligible for ARD again,” said Nerozzi.
The new legislation would also increase penalties for repeat offenders and those with minors on board.
“The new bill would take the same exact penalties that are given to someone who’s convicted of a DUI to someone who is convicted of a BUI on a watercraft,” said Nerozzi.
A Boating Under the Influence can affect a Driver’s License
In most states, a BUI conviction doesn’t impact a person’s driving privileges on land.
Alaska, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, Texas, and Utah have similar laws in place.
In fact, in California, Boating Under the Influence (BUI) cases can affect a driver’s license. The skill of an attorney makes the difference between it affecting a driving record like an Orange County DUI would.
“It’s very similar to what you would experience on a traffic stop,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Jones with the New Jersey State Police Marine Services Bureau.
Along the Delaware River, New Jersey State Police officers like Jones monitor marine traffic for intoxication similarly to how they would on the roads.
“Whether it’s blurry eyes, slurred speech, something to that effect. We will be able to detect that,” said Jones. “I’ve responded to several incidents where people have died. Just drinking on the water, operating the boats, and they have crashed into different objects.”
Jones said he has seen a decline in BUI incidents since NJ changed its laws.
“Since then, the numbers really have dropped,” said the staff sergeant.
Nerozzi hopes Pennsylvania will follow in New Jersey’s footsteps.
He said the new bill, which has already gone through the state House and Senate, could pass by the end of June and take effect this summer.