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DUI Boating Law & Defense

HN 655

The laws on the crime of boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol are found at California harbors and navigation code sections 655(b), 655(c), and 655(f). Boating under the influence is sometimes referred to as DUI boating.

DUI Boating Crimes

NH 655(b): The most common criminal charge of boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol is charged as HN 655(b). To prove that the defendant is guilty of HN 655(b), the district attorney must prove:

  • The defendant drove or operated a boat or boating vessel, and

  • While driving or operating the boat or boating vessel the defendant was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or a combination of both drugs and alcohol

​Legal Limit: HN 655(b) does not require that the defendant's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reach 0.08% of more. Any amount of alcohol or drugs, no matter how small the amount might be, is sufficient to charge the defendant with boating under the influence, if the amount of alcohol or drugs is enough to impair the defendant's ability to operate a boat safely. If the defendant's BAC is below 0.08% while operating a boat the prosecutor will need to prove that the defendant's ability to operate a boat was actually impaired by alcohol (Compare to HN 655(c) below). 


HN 655(c): When the defendant's BAC is above 0.08%, the defendant may also be charged with HN 655(c). It is not uncommon for boaters to be charged with both HN 655(b) and HN655(c) simultaneously.

Note: HN 655(c) is known as the per se count, which means that if the prosecutor can prove that the defendant's BAC was at least 0.08% while operating a boat, then the prosecutor will not need to prove that the defendant's ability to operate the boat safely was impaired. The impairment will be presumed.

HN 655(d): For commercial drivers of boats, such as cargo haulers, commercial fishing operators, etc., the legal limit is 0.04% BAC.

HN 655(e): BUIs that involve drugs (no alcohol), the district attorney will need to prove that the drugs, whether legal or illegal, impaired the defendant's ability to safely operate a boat. BAC refers to alcohol; thus, for BUIs that involve drugs there is no per se count equal to HN 655(c). For BUIs involving drugs the district attorney will usually charge the crime as HN 655(e) DUI boating while addicted to drugs.

HN 655(f): For boating under the influence charges that result in an injury to a person, other than the driver of the boat, the defendant will be charged with HN 655(f), a felony.

Penalties for DUI Boating

HN 655(b): Boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol is charged as a misdemeanor. If found guilty of HN 655(b), the defendant may face up to 180 days in jail for a first offense. In San Bernardin County the filed charge for HN 655(b) usually appears as HN655(b)-M.

HN 655(c): Boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol with a BAC of 0.08% or more is charged as a misdemeanor. If found guilty of HN 655(c), the defendant may face up to 180 days in jail for a first offense.

HN 655(f): DUI boating with injury is charged as a felony. If found guilty of HN 655(f) the defendant may face up to 3 years in jail.

Probation Sentences: Probation is a period of supervision in lieu of jail or prison. Terms of probation must be followed or the defendant will be in violation of probation and may thereafter be sentenced to ja. Probation sentences may be available to the defendant in some DUI boating cases depending on the facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history. Suspended and split jail sentences may also be available if the defendant is found guilty of felony boating under the influence crimes (PC 1170(h)). A split jail sentence is a sentence that is partially served n custody and partially served out of custody on work release or house arrest. A suspended jail sentence is a jail sentence that is not served at all unless the defendant violates a term of his or her felon probation.

Work Release: A work release sentence is available in driving or operating a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Work release refers to manual labor instead of actual jail. The manual labor is usually collecting trash around jails or highways, but can involve different type of work, such as work at a mortuary or animal shelter. Whether work release is allowed as an alternatively to actual jail depends on the terms of any plea bargain or probation sentence.

Bail: The San Bernardino County bail schedule for HN 655(b) is $25,000 (2020); however, that amount may be raised or lowered by a judge.

Note: DUI boating crimes are neither crimes involving moral turpitude, nor strike offenses under California's Three Strikes Law.

In addition to a possible jail or prison sentence, if found guilty of boating under the influence, the defendant may also suffer any of the following: probation or parole terms, mandatory boating safety classes, restitution, fines, professional license consequences, immigration consequences, loss of civil rights (including the right to own firearms for felony HN 655(f) convictions), civil lawsuits, forfeiture of boat, and more.

DUI Boating Defenses

Common defenses to HN 655 crimes include: insufficient evidence to prove that the defendant was operating a boat or vessel, illegal search and seizure, improper collection or preservation of blood or breath samples, statute of limitations, lack of causation for injury (for felony HN 655(f) crimes), unreliable administration of field sobriety tests, and more.

If you are charged with BUI (DUI Boating), or any HN 655 crime, contact our criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultation. We will patiently review the facts of your DUI Boating case and explain your rights and defense options. Call today!


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Related Crimes

  • HN 655(c) BUI with 0.08% of more

  • HN 655(a) Reckless boating

  • HN 655(e) Boating while addicted to drugs

  • HN 655(f) Boating under the influence w/injury

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