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Boating Season is Here!

Posted Wednesday, May 9, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

This means that while out on the water, you are subject to the Boating Under the Influence laws if you drink and operate a maritime vessel.

Boating Under the Influence or BUI’s are gross-misdemeanors, which means you face between 0-364 days in jail and up to a $5000 penalty. Unlike a DUI, there is no driver’s license suspension for a BUI. Also, unlike a DUI, you have no obligation to take a breath test.

I have been successful over the years of keeping a criminal BUI charge off client’s records by obtaining a dismissal or at least a reduction to negligent Boating , a civil infraction.

BUI is Considered a “Prior Offense” for a Later DUI Conviction

Under RCW 46.61.5055, anyone with BUI or reckless boating conviction on their record that is later convicted of a DUI will have the BUI treated as a prior offense. While most people never think that they will later be accused or convicted of DUI, this can have very real consequences. Making a BUI a “prior” can dramatically increase penalties for someone later convicted of DUI, vehicular assault or vehicular homicide.

All Motorized Vessels Apply

The law pertains to all “vessels” that operate on the water. Vessel is a very broad term and includes:

“Every description of watercraft on the water, other than a seaplane, used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on the water. However, it does not include inner tubes, air mattresses, sailboards, and small rafts or flotation devices or toys customarily used by swimmers.”

What Does the Law Say?

If a vessel is lawfully stopped and the operator (driver) has a breath or blood content of .08 or greater, THC concentration of 5.00 or higher, or is under the influence of intoxicants or marijuana, then that person can be accused of a gross misdemeanor. RCW 79A.60.040.

A gross misdemeanor is a criminal offense punishable by up to 364 days in jail and up to a $5000 fine. RCW 79A.60.020.

The refusal to take a breath or blood test is not admissible into evidence at a later trial. However, the refusal to take a breath or blood test does constitute a “class 1 civil infraction” under RCW 7.80.120, with the “default” and maximum penalty being $1,000.

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