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Washington BUI: Boating Under the Influence

Posted Wednesday, May 17, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

Boating season is here and crafts of all shapes and sizes are appearing on our waterways. The season also inevitably brings Boating Under the Influence (BUI) arrests, a common charge in Washington over the summer months. Unlike Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charges, there are currently no licensing consequences no mandatory jail. However, this is still a criminal misdemeanor and an alcohol offense. Therefore, jail and/or alcohol treatment are potential outcomes in case of a conviction.

The elements of BUI in Washington are similar to that of Driving Under the Influence charge. It is a “per se” violation if you are operating a vessel and have a BAC of .08 or a THC concentration above 5. If neither breath nor blood tests are available, the prosecutor can still prove a violation by showing you were “appreciably affected” by alcohol or drugs (or combination of the two) at the time you were operating the vessel. Additionally, the BUI statute is also implicated if one is accused of operating the vessel recklessly, whether or not alcohol or drugs are involved.

In a more recent section to the law, a person’s refusal to submit to a test of the alcohol concentration, THC concentration, or presence of any drug in the person’s blood or breath now constitutes a class 1 civil infraction under RCW 7.80.120.Boating Under the Influence: RCW 79A.60.040 / Reckless Boating: RCW 79A.60.040

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