Former Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Charged With BUI

Kevin Kolb, a NFL quarterback that once played for the Philadelphia Eagles, recently discovered the hard way that drinking and boating can lead to boating under the influence or BUI charges. Many people like to boat or ride a skidoo for fun and relaxation, and when people relax, they often like to enjoy a few adult beverages. The problem is that it is just as illegal to operate a watercraft under  the influence as it is to drive drunk, and the penalties for BUI cases are very similar to the penalties for DUI convictions.

Huntingdon & Centre County Operating Watercraft Under the Influence

Pennsylvania’s version of boating under the influence is actually called Operating a Watercraft Under the Influence under 30 Pa.C.S.A. § 5502. The Pennsylvania BUI charge prohibits a person from operating or being in actual physical control of the movement of a watercraft with drugs or alcohol in his or her system to an extent that it renders the person incapable of safely operating the watercraft or is over the legal limit. It is not a crime to be drunk and on the boat. It is only a crime to be operating or controlling the operation of the boat. Similar to DUI cases, if a person is suspected of boating under the influence, he or she is often take to shore and given field sobriety tests and a breath test to determine whether or not there is probable cause to arrest for BUI. If the officer believes that there is probable cause of boating under the influence, then the person is arrested and often transported to a hospital for a blood test. If the boater’s blood is found to be over the legal limit of .08%, then the person is charged with Operating Under the Influence.

It should be emphasized that BUI charges are not limited to operating a watercraft after drinking. Boating under the influence charges can also be filed if the person had been using drugs. Similar to a DUI, the BUI law does not require evidence that the person is actually “impaired,” meaning under the influence of drugs at the time of operation. Instead, a charge can be filed if the operator has metabolites or evidence of prior drug use in his or her blood.

Penalties for Misdemeanor BUI Charge

A charge of Operating a Watercraft Under the Influence is a misdemeanor charge in Pennsylvania, which means that a person charged with the offense must submit to fingerprinting and mugshots, so the Pennsylvania State Police Repository would have a record of the charges. This means that the charges would appear on any basic background search. I recently heard that a defense lawyer told a client that a misdemeanor charge that was not under the Crimes Code was not a big deal. I completely disagree. While the Crimes Code does cover important misdemeanor charges like Simple Assault, Furnishing Alcohol to Minors, and False Identification to Law Enforcement, other important misdemeanor charges like DUI, Possession of a Small Amount of Marijuana, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia are found in the Vehicle and Drug Codes respectively. I do not believe that a reasonable person would think that a drunk driving or drug possession charge is not a big deal on a background search.

Aside from appearing on a criminal background search, the penalties for a Pennsylvania BUI are relatively severe and may include mandatory sentences for jail time and substantial fines. Unlike a DUI, a boating under the influence conviction does not impact Pennsylvania driving privileges, but it would limit a person’s ability to operate a watercraft in Pennsylvania.

As a State College defense attorney, I do not handle too many Operating a Watercraft Under the Influence of Alcohol cases. However, boating under the influence cases are filed in Huntingdon County because of Lake Raystown, and similar charges could be filed because of Sayers Damn in Howard. Be safe this summer and do not boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol.