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Erin Brockovich of Movie Fame Charged with BUI - Boating Under Influence

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Erin Brockovich became famous after she was portrayed by Julia Roberts in a movie that depicted Brockovich's efforts to obtain justice for victims of environmental pollution, but she recently made the news after she was charged with Operating a Watercraft Under the Influence, which some people call a BUI for Boating Under the Influence. This case brings a few thoughts to mind, including that the criminal law applies to everyone, including celebrities. It also evidences that all types of people make bad decisions at times  and get into trouble. Regrettably, many people get into trouble as a result of drugs or alcohol. Many people do not realize that being under the influence of alcohol and engaging in leisurely activities such as riding four wheelers, boating, or hunting can result in the filing of criminal charges.

Operating a Watercraft Under the Influence and Driving Under the Influence

Many people that are not avid boaters probably never considered that a person could be charged with boating under the influence, which in Pennsylvania is officially called Operating a Watercraft Under the Influence, in violation of 30 Pa.C.S.A. § 5502. The Pennsylvania BUI law is very similar to Pennsylvania DUI law. Under the DUI law, a person is prohibited from driving, operating, or being in actual physical control of the movement of a motor vehicle and having a blood alcohol level above the legal limit within two hours of driving, operating, or being in actual physical control. The boating under the influence law is almost identical in that it prohibits a person operating or being in actual physical control of the movement of a watercraft and having a blood alcohol level above the legal limit within two hours of such operation or physical control.

Similar to DUI charges, the severity and range of punishments for Operating a Watercraft Under the Influence charges are primarily influenced by the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of the person operating the watercraft or boat. The higher the BAC level of the operator, the more severe the penalties.

Minors, meaning people under the age of 21, can be charged with a BUI if the BAC is above a .02%. The minor can be charged with a BUI as well as an additional offense of Underage Drinking, in violation of 18 Pa.C.S.A. §6308. While a conviction of BUI only results in the suspension of boating privileges and not driving privileges, there is a suspension of Pennsylvania driving privileges for a conviction of Underage Drinking.

As a Huntingdon County criminal defense lawyer, I have represented people charged with Operating a Watercraft Under the Influence after they were enjoying their time at Lake Raystown. Any person charged with a criminal offense should contact an experienced attorney at the State College office of JD Law, P.C. Call (814) 954-7622 or email for a free consultation.

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