Seafair 2013 is coming up! You need to be aware that it is going to get tough on boaters operating under the influence. The laws governing boating under the influence law have many similarities to the current DUI laws in Washington, but it also has some distinctly different aspects. A new law aimed at improving boating safety in Washington State increases penalties for boating under the influence and gives law enforcement officers greater authority in arresting impaired boaters.
Currently, the law has a punishment of misdemeanor offense for boaters who are caught with a BAC at .08% or greater. If convicted of a BUI, the maximum sentence is up to 90 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000 plus costs, fees and assessments. However, the new law, which will take effect July 28th, strengthens Washington BUI law by making the penalty for BUI a gross misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $5, 000 and 364 days in jail compare with a previous maximum fine of $1,000.
As you prepare for your weekend on the water, keep in mind that the new law now allows for implied consent, which means an officer can require a boat operator to take a breath or blood test if the officer suspects the boat operator of being impaired. If the operator refuses, they can be fined $1,000 civil infraction. Although drinking alcohol is not illegal on the boat, the operator is required to be under the legal limit. The law does not change the legal limit for blood-alcohol content. It remains at .08, the same as for driving.
Lastly, the law gives marine law enforcement officers the ability to hold negligent or reckless boaters accountable and the authority to issue citations for vessel accidents they did not witness.
It is important to have a designated driver on the water at all times. If you or anyone you know is caught boating under the influence, contact Scott Robbins. Remember the law changes go into effect on July 28, 2013, just in time for Seafair, Happy Boating!