San Fernando Valley Criminal & DUI Defense Lawyers

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Boating Under the Influence

I had lunch today with a few colleagues who do criminal defense. We started out talking about the election and the possibilities of simply sailing away to some sort of paradise. At some point a younger attorney in the group asked if any of us had ever handled a BUI case. Of course. Boating under the influence is not so common here in inland Los Angeles County and is often more prosecuted in areas where there is a heavy recreational boating community. Lake Havasu comes to mind as a place that sees a lot of this sort of thing. But it also happens in many inland lakes and rivers as well as on the ocean.

I recently was referred a very serious BUI case involving a group of friends that were wake boarding up in Northern California. One of the friends took his turn wake boarding and took a very hard fall. Although we are not sure, we suspect he struck his head on his own wake board when he fell and ultimately died of his injuries. A tragedy for sure, but to make things worse, my client was trying to get his lifelong friend some medical attention when the sheriff arrived and noticed he had been drinking.

After a series of questions, field sobriety tests and a preliminary alcohol screening device sample, my client was arrested for BUI or boating under the influence. Before he was charged with a crime, law enforcement wanted to complete their accident investigation and determine if the boat operator was in any way the cause of death to the wake boarder. I jumped quickly on the case and commenced my own investigation. I hired a local investigator and we promptly interviewed all possible witness, including some the sheriff had missed.

Our investigation, which we turned over to law enforcement helped to conclude that my client was not the cause of the injuries to his good friend. The charges were ultimately filed as misdemeanors and I was able to resolve my client’s case with probation, a fine, alcohol education classes and a safe boating program from the Coast Guard. He will not lose his driver’s license and will not spend a moment in jail.

Thorough investigation is often critical in obtaining a favorable outcome in many criminal cases. A quick start to the investigation may help a great deal, rather than waiting to see what the prosecutor does and trying to react to what they throw out. Being proactive may cost a few dollars at the early stages of a case. However, I believe this is money well spent when we are able to avoid very serious felony charges.

If you have questions about boating under the influence, driving under the influence or any other criminal case, call me:

Attorney Jeffrey Vallens (818) 783-5700 or (888) 764-4340 or email me at: or for more information about me, visit my sites: or