Spokane BUI Lawyer

When the warmer and sunnier weather comes around, there is also an increase in the number of boats out on the waterways of Eastern Washington. While most people understand the risks when it comes to drinking and driving a car, most people have heard the message from law enforcement loud and clear: Don’t do it. And, the same message has been echoed just as loudly in the past few years aimed at the boating community.

While the dangers of operating a boat under the influence (BUI) are being heard and many people are drinking alcohol responsibly while out on the water, there is still a problem. According to the United States Coast Guard auxiliary, alcohol was the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents in 2015. And what a shame that summer fun can be ruined by a bad decision to drink irresponsibly while driving a boat and having the responsibility for other people’s lives.

If you are heading out for a weekend of boating, make sure you understand the law and the consequences of a BUI. Think twice, or even three times, before you have another beer. Here is an overview of what you should know and what can happen if you choose to drink too much and operate a boat.

Make Sure You Know the Law

In Washington State, the legal blood alcohol limit for operating a boat is .08. And the term “under the influence” also applies to marijuana consumption. The limit for operating a boat under the influence of marijuana is 5.0 nanograms.

If you don’t know how much is too much, it’s best to have too little. There are many formulas and anecdotes to figure out how much you can drink and still be legal, but none of them are foolproof. The best way to stay out of trouble and to keep everyone on your boat safe is to have a designated boat driver who abstains from drinking, just like you would for a car.

Penalties for Operating a Boat Under the Influence

Not all BUIs are treated the same. There are several levels of BUI in Washington State. Which one you are cited for depends on the circumstances.

A standard BUI is a gross misdemeanor that is punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and can mean up to a year in jail.

If your operating a boat under the influence offense involves serious bodily injury to a person, you could be convicted of a Class B felony known as assault by watercraft. This type of offense can mean up to $20,000 in fines and up to ten years in jail.

The worst cases, those involving death, are consider Class A felonies. Causing the death of another because of operating a boat under the influence is considered homicide by watercraft. This offense carries up to $50,000 in fines and can mean life in prison.

Breathalyzer Tests

When a law enforcement officer has probable cause, they can ask the boat operator to take a breathalyzer test. There is a penalty for refusal, which is considered a Class 1 Civil Infraction. The maximum penalty for refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test is $1,000, but there are some laws that allow for an addition 105% penalty, which can mean a total fine of $2,050.

However, breathalyzer tests for BUI are not treated the same as those for DUI. You are not required to take a breathalyzer and this will not be used against you in a BUI case, as it is in a DUI case.

How the BUI Laws Are Enforced

In the State of Washington, operating a boat under the influence laws are enforced by several agencies, including the Municipal police, the Washington State Patrol and the U.S. Coast Guard. These groups can enforce BUI laws anywhere in the State of Washington.

In addition, the laws are not limited to certain types of boats. The law applies to any type of boat, whether it is motorized or non-motorized, and includes, canoes, kayaks, and rafts.

Know Before You Go

Using drugs or alcohol strongly affects critical functions such as your vision, your judgement, your reaction time, and your balance and coordination. These are all crucial to have in top working condition while operating a boat. The Washington State Parks Boating Program offers boaters education on safe boating and a concise overview of the law, as well as what it could mean to you.

Contact a Qualified Spokane BUI Attorney

Before you head out on the water for some fun, make sure you know the law. Ignorance is no excuse for not following the boating laws. It’s also important to make sure you understand how to boat safely. If you do get in to trouble, it’s important to seek the advice of an experienced BUI attorney right away.

8.4Mark Twyford Cassell