There are various laws across the United States that relate to boating under the influence of alcohol. Here are the key things you need to know.
Many people do not equate operating a boat with driving a car, but the law sees the two things as being very similar when it comes to drinking alcohol. Even if you are operating a boat that does not have an engine, you are still expected to operate the boat as responsibly as you would drive a car. Here are some of the main things you need to know around drinking alcohol and operating a boat.
Key Facts About Boating And Drinking
The main thing you need to know is that operating a boat if you have drunk too much alcohol is a federal offense. This applies to motorboats such as speedboats, as well as rowboats, canoes and other manually powered boats.
The legal limit for drinking and driving is a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08%. Exactly the same BAC limit applies to boating and drinking alcohol. It is also important to point out that legal BAC limits apply to individuals who are of the legal drinking age. Those who are caught underage drinking and boating will face additional charges and more serious penalties. Anyone caught boating under the influence is likely to need legal representation, or legal advice in the least – keep reading here. First time offenders may be treated more leniently than second time offenders, but this depends on the circumstances.
As well as being a federal offense, most states have their own additional rules and penalties for those caught drinking and operating a boat. This can include jail sentences, loss or suspension of your boating license, suspension of your driving license, seizure of the boat, and fines.
Why Is Boating Under The Influence A Crime?
Many people do not appreciate the risks that relate to boating under the influence of alcohol until it’s too late. For people who are not used to operating a boat, it can potentially be riskier than driving. You need a bit of experience to get a feel for currents and tides, and weather can change quickly and totally change the operating conditions. There may also be objects under the surface that you cannot see, and you need yet more experience to understand how to maneuver around other boaters or people in the water.
If you add alcohol into the mix, boating can become even more hazardous if your reaction times and mental clarity are impaired by alcohol. According to the American Boating Organization, there are now more than 5,000 boating accidents every year. There are also more than 3,000 injuries that result from boating accidents, and over 700 fatalities.
What Happens When You Are Stopped On Suspicion Of Boating Under The Influence?
There are various types of officials who have it within their remit to patrol waterways to keep them safe. This includes looking out for anyone who appears to be under the influence of alcohol and/or not operating their boat in a safe manner. As a result, you can be stopped by anyone ranging from federal, state or local law enforcement, to the Coast Guard, fish and game wardens, sheriffs or park rangers.
Any law enforcement officer who has the power to stop people on the waterways carries testing kits to check your BAC level. You must comply with the request to undertake one of these tests. If you don’t, you risk facing additional consequences for not complying with a law enforcement officer. These law enforcement officers are looking for a reading of under 0.08% when they do the test. However, law enforcement officers are trained in spotting if someone if under the influence of substances that impair their actions. Even if your BAC is lower than 0.08%, there is still a possibility you can be arrested if they still deem you a risk.
If a law enforcement officer arrests you for boating under the influence, the boat must be returned to shore by someone who is not under the influence. This may either be someone else on the boat, or the law enforcement officer can board the boat and return it to shore.
What Are The Consequences Of Boating Under The Influence?
The number of accidents and fatalities happening in boating incidents means the law is often practiced firmly in cases of boating under the influence of alcohol. Anyone caught doing this may end up with a criminal record and a possible felony conviction. Your boating license can also be suspended or revoked entirely. There are certain situations that can make the consequences more severe too. This includes being a repeat offender, or if the offence happened while you also had children on board. If you gave alcohol or other controlled substances to children on board, you can also be arrested for further offenses.
The consequences for being convicted of boating under the influence are often almost entirely the same as for driving under the influence (DUI). This varies from state to state, and includes a combination of a driving license suspension and a fine. In some states it is also likely you will serve some jail time too, even for a first offense.