Summer is Coming: What You Should Know About Boating Under the Influence
Summer is just around the corner, and you know what that means: Lots of partying in and out of the water. For many people, “partying” is code for “drinking” . That is if they don’t drive a boat at the same time.
Yes, there is such a thing as boating under the influence (BUI). And just like its more grounded cousin, driving under the influence (DUI), it’s illegal in all 50 states. Here are a few things that you should know about boating under the influence.
Alcohol is a major factor in fatal boating accidents
According to data from the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in boating deaths. In boating accidents where the primary cause was known, alcohol is the leading factor in 17% of fatalities. The U.S. Coast Guard also reveals that in boating deaths involving alcohol use, over half the victims fell overboard and/or capsized their boats.
There is a federal law vs BUI
Aside from the anti-BUI laws implemented in every state, there is also a federal law that prohibits BUI.
This law, which the U.S. Coast Guard is enforcing, pertains to boats of all shapes and sizes, from the smallest canoes and rowboats to the largest ships. The law also covers foreign vessels in U.S. waters and U.S. vessels on the high seas.
BUI checkpoints exist
Law enforcement sets up BUI checkpoints in the water, and has every right hail and board your boat to check for BUIs or any boating violation. In some states, officers can board your boat even without probable cause.
Possible BUI penalties
The legal blood alcohol limit in most states is 0.08%. Anyone that goes over the limit while operating a boat may be subject to the following penalties if convicted of a BUI:
· Fines – BUI fines may vary from state to state as well as from case to case. It is common among states to impose fines of up to $1,000 for misdemeanor offenses, while felony cases could draw fines of $25,000 or more.
· Probation – Many BUI convicts are slapped with probation, and are expected to comply with specific probation conditions for a 12-month period or longer. Failure to comply could mean more fines, a longer probation period or even imprisonment.
· Jail time – A misdemeanor BUI charge can land a person in jail for up to one year if convicted,
although courts are known to hand down lesser sentences. Prison sentences may be longer if it’s a felony conviction, particularly if the BUI resulted in injury or death.
States also differ when it comes to other penalties. In New Mexico and Missouri, people convicted of BUI are also required to complete a boating safety course. Loss of boat operating privileges, meanwhile, is one of the consequences of BUI in New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. There are also states like Utah, Alaska, and California that hang over the heads of BUI offenders the possibility of losing their drivers’ licenses.
It is also important to keep in mind that if you’re convicted of a BUI, you will have a criminal record.
Alcohol and water simply don’t mix
Chasing down alcohol with water is fine, but drinking alcohol while driving a boat across the water is not. The physical effects of alcohol, plus the unpredictability of waves, the heat of the sun and the inherent difficulty in operating boats all add up to what can only be a disaster.
Don’t drink and drive a boat. It’s one of the best ways to keep yourself, your passengers, other boat operators and swimmers safe when handling watercraft.
Learn more about BUIs by checking out the infographic above (click to enlarge), courtesy of the Law Office of Michelle Bell.