The Position of the Law
The dangers of driving while drunk take different forms. It may lead to bodily harm for the drunk individual or someone else; or destruction of property; losing your driver’s license; or worse, being slapped with a DUI charge. For purpose of clarity, DUI is the acronym for ‘Driving Under the Influence.’ A related term is DWI, short for ‘Driving While Impaired,’ which depending on the jurisdiction may either be a synonym of DUI or have a different meaning. In this article, the goal is to find out if DUI or DWI, regardless of its name, also applies to boating. If yes, then what are the consequences? The important question—Can I get breathalyzed on a boat?—also receives a thorough answer.
Both state and federal laws frown on boating while intoxicated. However, state laws have different consequences for mixing boating and alcohol use. As expected, the consequences of boating under the influence are stiffer in states where boating is common (check out Florida’s statutes). Regardless, as is the case with driving under the influence of alcohol: Boating while drunk is unlawful, and could lead to an arrest.
A DUI or DWI often leads the appropriate authority to withdraw your driver’s license and associated driving privileges. However, in general, if the authorities stopped you for boating under the influence, you would not lose your driver’s license. The reason is that the regulations for and authorities that regulate boating and driving are different. In most cases, you do not require a license before you can legally engage in boating. Therefore, sending information about you boating under the influence to the relevant desk that would result in an automatic suspension of your driving privileges is far from being a simple process. Often times, the authority regulating driver’s licenses in your jurisdiction may not be privy to boating violations. It may or may not affect your driver’s license, depending on the jurisdiction.
Breathalyzed on a Boat
Since it has been established that you may be arrested or cited for boating under the influence, it follows to consider how authorities would find out if you are intoxicated. The common tool used to verify if a driver is intoxicated is the breathalyzer. Authorities may also use the breathalyzer to verify if the operator of a boat is intoxicated. Certainly, you may refuse to be breathalyzed. However, this has a caveat. If you refuse to blow, your case may be forwarded to the U.S. Coast Guard for review. That is not all to it though. You may also have to pay a fine of between $1000 and $5000. The fine has the backing of federal law and is imposed on individuals who refuse to comply with the request for a breathalyzer test. Here is where things get serious. If the individual levied with the fine refuses to pay in a timely manner, then the Coast Guard may seize the vessel in which you carried out the act of drunken boating.
It is important not to dismiss being charged with boating under the influence, simply because it has no effect on your license. Rather, you should contact a criminal attorney, preferably on with knowledge of maritime laws. In addition, drivers accused of DUI or DWI also need the services of an attorney, especially for plea-bargaining. Prosecutors often avoid going toe-in with a formidable defense attorney to avoid squandering scarce resources. Instead, they offer lenient sentences. In the event of a trial, a talented DUI lawyer will be better able to make a case for “reasonable doubt” by picking holes in the prosecutor’s case.