As South Carolina experiences an increase in DUI and BUI enforcement, many people in lowcountry areas such as Charleston, North Charleston, James Island, Folly Beach, West Ashley, Sullivans Island, Isle of Palms, Mount Pleasant, and Awendaw are unaware of the differences associated with driving under the influence and boating under the influence. While both charges are serious offenses, there are distinct differences in the procedures effecting the enforcement.

On land, law enforcement generally relies upon the Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) to establish probable cause for a DUI arrest. The SFST was developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and includes three tests: 1) Horizontal gaze nystagmus 2) walk-and-turn and 3) One-leg stand. There is an ongoing debate about the effectiveness and scientific nature of these tests, but for the time being they relied upon by law enforcement to continue the prosecution of alleged DUI offenders. Also, South Carolina law mandates that the officer videotape the suspect with his/her in-dash camera while conducting these tests.

Boating Under the Influence (BUI) differs in multiple ways from a DUI. For the most part, the Department of Natural Resources is tasked with the responsibility to enforce the BUI laws. Similarly to the NHTSA, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators has developed its own method for testing boater’s sobriety. As you can imagine, it would not make much sense to administer the walk-and-turn test or the one-leg stand while on an unstable boat so the NASBLA test differs from the Standardized Field Sobriety Test. DNR uses the “Afloat Test Battery” to determine the sobriety of a boater. This test includes reciting the ABC’s, counting backwards from 25 to 1, a finger dexterity test, a palm pat test, and a touch finger to nose test. It is also an important distinction to realize that BUI laws do not require the arresting officer to videotape the suspect.

As the waterways, rivers, and lakes heat up it is important to understand the boating laws and the seriousness of both DUI/BUI offenses. In areas in and around the South Carolina lowcountry such as Sullivans Island, Isle of Palms, Folly Beach, James Island, Charleston, West Ashley, North Charleston, Moncks Corner, Mount Pleasant, and Awendaw, boaters will notice an increased DNR presence looking for drunk boaters. The DUI/BUI attorneys at Reeves Aiken & Hightower LLP stand ready to help you if you have been arrested and charged for DUI, BUI or DUAC. Before hiring an attorney, you should carefully check out their credentials and actual experience. For more information about our lawyers, please visit our website at Or to schedule a confidential consultation about your particular case, please call us directly at 877-374-5999.