The summer is indeed winding down, but there are still some wonderful days of Illinois boating remaining.
Please remember to visit the Illinois Boaters Association webpage and join “Your Voice In The Boating Community.”
As an attorney, I am often asked about various boating registration and boating laws. While I am happy to answer most questions, often times folks just really need information and do not know where to go.
Today’s blog post is designed to give you easy and quick access to information put out by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources(IDNR) regarding various boating laws and information.
While not the easiest page to navigate, the IDNR does maintain a recreational boating page which you can access directly by clicking HERE.
By far, in Illinois the governing legislation that controls boating is the Illinois Boat Registration and Safety Act. Click 2014 Illinois Boat Registration & Safety Act Info for a detailed PDF of this important Illinois boating safety law.
Also an outstanding reference for Illinois Boating Laws is the “Handbook.” This is slightly outdated, but nonetheless an excellent resource. You can download and view the entire Handbook of Illinois Boating Laws & Responsibilities by clicking the link.
Prefer to read the actual law itself for 625 ILCS 45/ Boat Registration & Safety Act that click HERE
Please remember that a law enforcement vessel in Illinois can stop and temporarily detain any boat for a “Safety Inspection.” This safety check is often used as a pretext to evaluate the driver of the boat to see if they are operating the vessel under the influence of alcohol.
With the end of the boating season drawing nearer, one can bet that the Conservation Police and the various local county police agencies will be on patrol (or hiding at choke points such as bridges, channels, and just outside popular bars and marinas) looking to add to the coffers of the various cash strapped agencies.
Operating any motor vehicle in Illinois that does not require a driver’s license, such as a boat, snowmobile, or even a golf cart under the influence of alcohol is called an OUI or Operating Under the Influence. There are many similarities between an OUI and a DUI in terms of how they are prosecuted, punished, and fined. The big difference, is that thanks to your Illinois Boaters Association, attempts to suspend or revoke an Illinois Driver’s License this past session by State Senator’s Terry Link (up for re-election BTW folks) and Julie Morrison (she is up for re-election in 2 years) were stopped butt cold.
An OUI is still no laughing matter. Firstly, you can usually expect to have your boat towed to a local marina. Your day of fun is over in no uncertain terms in any event. It is going to cost you around $400.00 to reclaim your boat and that has nothing to do with everything else you may be facing.
An OUI will also allow the police to search your boat and often they will harass and search your passengers. I am hearing numerous reports of passengers, not under arrest having their drivers licenses taken and having their information searched through a call to the police dispatch. If you have an outstanding warrant, even if just a passenger in a boat and your information is run through a police dispatch, the police officers have a legal obligation to take you into custody. And they will.
An OUI will have a mandatory Court date in the jurisdiction in which the alleged offense took place. In my legal practice, I have had many OUI cases. Sadly, unlike the traditional DUI, where one can argue if the stop was warranted or legitimate, your defense attorney will most likely not be able to offer any such defense as the police can claim a “safety inspection” and avoid any reasonable suspicion or probable cause requirements.
I do highly recommend that a person accused of an OUI seek out a criminal defense attorney who understands not only the OUI laws, but that particular Court system. For example, I practice mainly in Lake and McHenry counties in Illinois and while I have been in Cook and other counties for a variety of reasons and cases, when I get a call from a client accused of OUI in counties other than Lake of McHenry, I often refer them to counsel who has a better familiarity with that local court system.
Most criminal defense attorneys, myself included, will give a potential client a free consultation, but one can expect to pay money up front for any criminal defense attorney to agree to take their case. I am honored to help my fellow boaters and I believe my rate for representation is among the lowest in the area. I have a history of meeting and beating other local defense attorney’s proposed fee for an OUI representation and have no intention of not continuing such activity.
Any alcohol offense in Illinois that involves a motor vehicle, be it a car, boat, snowmobile, heck, even a riding mower has two components. There is the law and order component. The crime if you will. This is the fines, court costs, potential jail time, etc. The Court has no problem with the law and order aspect of any criminal case, but if alcohol or drugs are involved, than often the Court will require that a Alcohol and Drug Evaluation is performed by a state licensed facility and as part of the sentence, the defendant must follow the recommendations of the results of this uniform Alcohol and Drug Evaluation.
In Lake County, Illinois, you must get this evaluation at a NICASA facility. NICASA can be found on the web HERE You do not have to return to NICASA for any ordered treatment, but the evaluation will set you back around $150.00 (or less if you sign an affidavit of indecency indicating you are basically broke).
The uniform Alcohol and Drug Evaluation is a structured interview followed by a question and answer session. Your answers will be scored and at the conclusion, your “Risk Factor” will be determined. The higher the risk factor, the more treatment will be required by the Court. An experienced attorney can help prepare you for this evaluation.
An OUI plea, or any result in Court other than a dismissal or a finding of not guilty will also have an additional component of having the offender have to complete what is called a Live Victim Impact Panel (VIP). This is scheduled through the local community college, usually costs around $50.00 and exposes the offender to real life victims and their families of drug and alcohol related crimes and events. Needless to say, this is a live event and (pun intended) sobering experience.
There is much more to a DUI or OUI situation than what can be or should be covered in a blog post. It is my hope that this post underscores the seriousness and ramifications of an OUI situation. It is my hope to meet my fellow boaters on the water or perhaps serve them in other legal capacities such as when they are buying or selling real estate, need a will, or any of the other legal arenas in which I practice. That being said, if I can help, I am honored to do so.
Be safe on the water. Be wise on the water. As the weather chills and the general Illinois election campaign system heats up, why not ask the politicians running for office if they would support an Illinois Boaters Bill of Rights? At the Illinois Boaters Association we have proposed an Illinois Boaters Bill of Rights for consideration, debate, and hopeful implementation into the laws that affect boating in Illinois. See our proposed Draft Illinois Boaters Bill of Rights by clicking the link.
See you on the water!