Georgia General Assembly

A revision to Georgia’s boating under the influence law would create a better definition between “boating” and “floating,” according to a local legislator.

Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, is the author of House Bill 172, which would exempt homemade or inflatable rafts from being part of the vessels that fall under the state’s strict BUI rules.

“I ran into a situation where an attorney contacted me about a young man was charged with boating under the influence when he was floating down a river on a homemade raft,” Lumsden said.

“I was somewhat surprised.”

The bill defines a homemade or inflatable raft as any platform which floats on the water and can only be powered with by a person’s hands, arms, legs or feet.

The General Assembly adopted legislation in 2013 lowering the blood-alcohol content limit for boaters from .10 to a .08 to mimic the limit set for automobiles and increasing penalties for those caught boating while intoxicated.

Lumsden said he understands how important that change was, but when he checked, that rule applied to anyone simply floating on a non-motorized inflatable raft or inner tube.

“I don’t think that was the intent or purpose of the law, and so far think everyone has agreed with me,” Lumsden said.

Both the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, and Rules Committee have approved HB 172. It now is set to go to the floor of the House for a vote Tuesday.

“It was something that I guess had been known, but no one has ever proposed any changes,” Lumsden said.

With the current law, a person charged with BUI can be fined up to $10,000 and lose their privilege to drive, things that Lumsden said can seriously affect there ability to earn a living.

“When you are talking about simply floating … there are laws that would be more appropriate for the situation, like disorderly conduct or public drunkenness,” Lumsden said.

If it is passed in the House, the bill will go to the Senate for a vote.