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Can You Be Charged for Boating Under the Influence in SC?

a boat on a lake

As summer approaches and the waters beckon, it's essential to understand the laws governing boating under the influence (BUI) in South Carolina. Many individuals may be unaware that operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs can result in serious legal consequences. At Touma Law Group, we are dedicated to ensuring that individuals are informed about their rights and obligations when it comes to boating safety and BUI laws in South Carolina.

If you or a loved one have been charged with boating under the influence in South Carolina, it's crucial to seek legal representation from an experienced criminal defense attorney in Columbia who understands the nuances of BUI laws. Our skilled legal team at Touma Law Group is here to provide you with the guidance and advocacy you need to navigate the legal process effectively.

Contact us today at (803) 879-4499 to schedule a consultation and learn how we can protect your rights and defend against BUI charges.

Laws for Boating Under the Influence in South Carolina

Boating Under the Influence in South Carolina refers to operating a watercraft while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both. Similar to driving under the influence (DUI) laws, BUI laws aim to prevent accidents and promote safety on the water.

In South Carolina, a person is considered to be boating under the influence if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level is 0.08% or higher. Additionally, individuals can be charged with BUI if they are impaired by alcohol or drugs to the extent that their normal faculties are materially and appreciably impaired.

a group of people drinking on a boat

Penalties for BUI in South Carolina can include fines, jail time, and the loss of boating privileges. The severity of the penalties depends on factors such as the offender's BAC level, prior BUI offenses, and whether any accidents or injuries occurred as a result of the impaired boating.

Boating under the influence can have serious legal consequences, so it's essential for boaters to understand and adhere to South Carolina's BUI laws to ensure the safety of themselves and others on the water. If facing BUI charges, seeking legal counsel from an experienced attorney is advisable to protect one's rights and navigate the legal process effectively.

Do You Have to Take a Breathalyzer on the Water?

In South Carolina, individuals operating a watercraft are subject to implied consent laws similar to those for driving a motor vehicle. This means that by operating a watercraft on the state's waterways, boaters are deemed to have consented to chemical tests to determine their BAC is above the legal limit if arrested for boating under the influence.

Boaters who refuse to submit to a breath test or field sobriety tests when lawfully arrested for BUI may face penalties such as the suspension of their boating privileges, fines, and other consequences. It's important for boaters to understand their rights and obligations under South Carolina's implied consent laws to make informed decisions when interacting with law enforcement officers on the water.

While refusal to submit to testing can result in administrative and legal penalties, individuals have the right to consult with an attorney before deciding whether to submit to testing. Seeking legal counsel from a knowledgeable attorney can help boaters understand their rights, navigate the legal process, and potentially mitigate the consequences of BUI charges.

BUI in South Carolina carries severe legal penalties to deter impaired operation of watercraft and ensure the safety of waterway users. Individuals convicted of BUI face both criminal and administrative consequences. Criminal penalties may include fines, imprisonment, and community service. The severity of these penalties often depends on factors such as prior offenses and the level of impairment.

Jail time

Yes, individuals can face jail time for boating while intoxicated in South Carolina. A conviction for  BUI can result in various penalties, including imprisonment. The severity of the penalties typically depends on factors such as the individual's prior criminal record, the level of impairment, and whether there were any aggravating circumstances involved in the incident.

For a first-offense BUI conviction in South Carolina, individuals may face up to 30 days in jail. Subsequent offenses can result in longer periods of incarceration, particularly if there are aggravating factors or prior convictions. Additionally, individuals convicted of BUI may also be subject to fines, probation, community service, and other penalties.

Learn More: What Should You Do After a DUI?

Given the potential for jail time and other serious consequences associated with BUI convictions, it's crucial for individuals facing such charges to seek legal representation from an experienced attorney. An attorney can provide guidance, protect the individual's rights, and work to achieve the best possible outcome in their case. If you're facing BUI charges in South Carolina, consider consulting with a knowledgeable attorney to understand your legal options and build a strong defense.


If convicted of BUI in South Carolina, fines can vary depending on the circumstances of the offense and any prior convictions. Generally, fines for a first-offense BUI can range from $200 to $1,000. Subsequent convictions may result in higher fines, potentially reaching up to $6,000 for a third offense.

In addition to fines, individuals convicted of BUI may also face other financial consequences, such as court costs, fees for alcohol education or treatment programs, and restitution for any damages resulting from the offense.

It's important to note that fines are just one aspect of the penalties associated with BUI convictions. Individuals may also face imprisonment, probation, community service, license suspension, and other consequences. Therefore, if you're facing BUI charges in South Carolina, it's essential to consult with an experienced attorney who can advocate for your rights and work to minimize the potential penalties you may face.

Suspension of Boating Privileges

Administrative penalties for BUI may include the suspension or revocation of a boating license, which can impact a person's ability to operate a watercraft in the future. This suspension period can range from 12 months to 3 years. Additionally, individuals convicted of BUI may be required to complete substance abuse education programs or undergo alcohol or drug treatment.

Given the serious nature of BUI charges and the potential consequences, it's essential for individuals facing such allegations to seek legal representation from a skilled attorney experienced in handling BUI cases. An attorney can provide guidance throughout the legal process, protect the individual's rights, and work to achieve the best possible outcome. If you're facing BUI charges in South Carolina, don't hesitate to contact a qualified attorney to discuss your case and explore your legal options.

Can a BUI Charge Be a Felony?

In South Carolina, a boating under the influence charge becomes a felony offense under certain circumstances. Generally, a BUI is classified as a misdemeanor offense, however, it can escalate to a felony if the individual has prior BUI convictions or if aggravating factors are present.

the statue of justice in front of a shelf full of legal books

Aggravating factors that can elevate a BUI charge to a felony may include:

  1. Prior BUI convictions: If the individual has previous BUI convictions on their record, subsequent offenses may be charged as felonies.
  2. Serious injury or death: If the BUI incident results in serious bodily injury or death to another person, the charge may be elevated to a felony.
  3. Child endangerment: Operating a boat under the influence with a minor onboard may lead to felony charges, especially if the child is injured or killed as a result.

It's essential to understand that each case is unique, and the specific circumstances surrounding the BUI incident will determine the severity of the charges. If facing felony BUI charges, it's crucial to seek legal counsel from an experienced attorney who can provide guidance and advocate for your rights throughout the legal process.

What Happens if Law Enforcement Thinks I'm Boating Under the Influence?

If law enforcement suspects that you are boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol in South Carolina, they may initiate a boating safety inspection or stop your vessel for further investigation. During the stop, officers may observe your behavior, check for signs of impairment, and conduct field sobriety tests to assess your coordination and cognitive abilities. Additionally, they may request that you submit to a breathalyzer test to measure your BAC.

Related: How to Find the Best DUI Attorney

If officers have probable cause to believe that you are operating a vessel while intoxicated, they may arrest you and take you into custody. At this point, you will be informed of your rights and may be transported to a law enforcement facility for further testing and processing. Depending on the results of chemical tests and other evidence, you may be charged with BUI and face legal proceedings.

It's important to cooperate with law enforcement during a BUI stop but also to be aware of your rights. If you are arrested for BUI, it's crucial to seek legal representation from an experienced attorney who can protect your interests and help you navigate the legal process.

Talk to Our Attorneys if You Have Been Charged With BUI

If you're facing charges it's vital to seek legal assistance from experienced attorneys who understand the nuances of BUI laws in the state. Our team of skilled lawyers is here to help South Carolinians navigate the legal process and protect their rights.

With our extensive knowledge of South Carolina's BUI laws and courtroom experience, we can provide you with the robust defense you need. We'll thoroughly review the details of your case, explore all available legal options, and work tirelessly to achieve the best possible outcome.

Don't face BUI charges alone. Contact our Columbia DUI attorneys today to schedule a consultation and let us advocate for you every step of the way. Your future and freedom are too important to leave to chance.

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