Whether you’re cruising on Lake Michigan or visiting one of the smaller lakes across Illinois, boating can be a very popular activity during the warm summer months here in Illinois. When you’re on the open water with friends and family, it can be easy to let down your guard and feel like you’re not held to the same standard of safety as you are when you’re driving a traditional vehicle on the road. That’s why so many boaters end up facing boating while intoxicated (BWI) charges every year in Illinois.
What you may find surprising is that boating while intoxicated charges are handled just like a traditional DUI, meaning the potential penalties in Illinois are steep. That’s why it’s so important to have a lawyer by your side should you find yourself facing BWI charges in Illinois.
Boating While Intoxicated In Illinois
One of the main reasons why so many people end up with boating while intoxicated charges is because alcohol consumption is handled a little differently when you’re on the water. Passengers and even the boat’s captain are allowed to have open containers of alcohol in their possession while the boat is in use, and obviously the same cannot be said for driving in a vehicle. However, it is illegal for the boat’s captain to be over the legal limit of 0.08 when they are operating or in physical control of the boat. This means that even if you’re just floating in the middle of the lake, if the driver is over the limit, they can be hit with a BWI even if they aren’t driving across the lake at the time they are stopped. The same can be said for smaller motorboats and personal watercrafts like Jet-skis.
Under Illinois law, operation of a boat on public waters means that you consent to drug or alcohol testing if police place you under arrest for suspected BWI. This means that if police suspect you are under the influence and you refuse a test, you are in violation of the state’s implied consent law and you can lose your boating privileges for two years.
Boating while intoxicated charges carry stiff penalties, even if nobody is harmed during the incident. A first offense BWI charge is punishable by up to a year in jail and fines up to $2,500. There’s also the distinct possibility that you’ll lose your boat operator’s license. These charges could be upgraded if you had previous BWIs or DUIs on your record, and they can also be upgraded to a felony if an injury occurred. BWIs involving serious injuries to passengers or other individuals are classified as a Class 4 felony in Illinois, punishable by up to three years in prison and fines up to $25,000. If someone is killed, the potential jail time increases to seven years.
There’s also a good chance that a BWI will cost you in other ways. For example, you can expect your insurance rates to increase for at least a year, and it can also result in the termination of your employment or your inability to get a loan or be approved for housing. Needless to say, a BWI has long-reaching consequences and the charge should not be taken lightly.
Contact a BWI Attorney
So if you have been charged with boating while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you need to make the right move and contact a BWI attorney in your area. Brett and his team have worked on numerous BWI cases, and we can help you achieve a favorable result. It may seem like the odds are stacked against you, but you have options, so don’t try to face the prosecution on your own. Pleading guilty and asking for leniency can backfire spectacularly, so it’s best to sit down with a professional, understand all aspects of your case, and move forward with a plan that best suits your needs and desires.
To help you with this process, we offer a free case review where you can sit down with an attorney and really dive into your specific case and learn about your legal options. If you want to move forward with us after this meeting, we’ll be happy to start putting together a strong legal defense. If that sounds like something worth pursuing, pick up the phone and give us a call today at (630) 717-7801.