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Conservation Law Enforcement Corner May 2020

The Conservation LE Corner is designed to highlight the efforts of Georgia DNR Law Enforcement Division (LED) officers who, among their many duties, protect Georgia’s wildlife, sportsmen and natural resources from game-law violators.

GON Staff | April 30, 2020

In Georgia, Boating Under the Influence (BUI) of drugs or alcohol is a crime. The state has stiff penalties for a person operating a boat if his or her blood-alcohol content is 0.08 or higher—the same limit for driving on the state’s roadways.

BUI is often the cause of serious boating accidents, and officers are constantly watching out for violators.

Appling County: On March 17, 2018, Cpl. Chase Altman and Sgt. Jon Barnard of DNR’s Law Enforcement Division (LED) were conducting a vessel patrol on the Altamaha River.

The officers launched a boat at Deen’s Landing in Baxley and traveled the river to about a mile past Morris Landing, checking boaters for safety equipment, registration and licenses before Cpl. Altman turned the vessel around to head back to Deen’s Landing. Just past Morris Landing, a boat was spotted just beside another vessel that Cpl. Altman and Sgt. Barnard had checked earlier. The boat was being operated by an adult male, at the time 36 years old, from Baxley.

Also in the boat was the operator’s wife and two kids, a 15-year-old and a 7-year-old.

There were no visible registration numbers on the vessel, so Cpl. Altman and Sgt. Barnard conducted a vessel stop. Cpl. Altman pulled his vessel up beside the other boat, and Sgt. Barnard spoke with the boat operator, who said he had the boat for around six to eight months.

The registration was brought into question to the boater, who stated that he got the boat from his father’s estate and it was registered in his name, but they never put the registration stickers on it or the numbers. As the boater spoke with Sgt. Barnard, Cpl. Altman ran the vessel on Go Outdoors, which verified the information.

Sgt. Barnard then addressed the issue of having a 7-year-old in the boat as it was moving without the child wearing a PFD.

As Cpl. Altman got closer, a smell of an alcoholic beverage was coming from the boat. Sgt. Barnard had recognized this as well and asked the boater if he had drank any alcoholic beverages this evening, and he admitted to having a couple of beers at Morris Landing, where they put in. Cpl. Altman noticed the man’s eyes were bloodshot and glassy, a sign of possible intoxication. A PFD was then found for the 7-year-old child.

The 15-year-old and the wife both had PFDs that would fit them in the vessel. The boat operator was asked by Cpl. Altman if he would submit to field sobriety testing to see if he was able to operate the vessel safely. He said he would and stepped onto the patrol vessel.

Cpl. Altman conducted field sobriety tests, which indicated multiple clues of possible impairment. Cpl. Altman then conducted the Alco-Sensor on the boater, which was positive for alcohol. The boater was then placed under arrest by Cpl. Altman.

Sgt. Barnard agreed to take the man’s boat back to Morris Landing and help the wife load it on the trailer, as she did not know how to do all this.

Cpl. Altman transported the boater back to Deen’s Landing for a deputy to pick up and take to the Detention Center in Appling for Intox testing.

The boater ended up paying a total of $797 in fines for BUI (Child Endangerment) and allowing an underage child to ride in a moving vessel without a PFD.

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