NJ DWI-DUI Update: Don’t Let Summer Fun End with a Summons for Intoxicated Boating

It is probably safe to say that winter is over and done with here in the Garden State. Now, with summer officially in full swing, we feel obliged to remind readers that vacation revelry can lead not only to instances of drinking and driving, drug DUI and other related chargeable offenses, but it can also result in faulty judgment calls, especially during extracurricular activities such as power boating and sailing. As drunken driving defense attorneys here in Monmouth County, we know that drunk driving is just one of several potential violations that can and do take place along the Jersey Shore.

Many people who have visited this state’s fabulous ocean-side venues up and down the Garden State coast may already have experienced the embarrassment of receiving a DWI or drug DUI summons during a visit to the seashore. Those who came to enjoy boating and other watersports — either off the shoreline or in one of this state’s numerous waterways — may have found themselves being approached by law enforcement officers after a minor boating-related mishap or simple procedural error while negotiating New Jersey waters.

For some of those who may have imbibed a little bit before their encounter with local police, coastguard, or sheriff’s department personal may have found themselves cited for being intoxicated while piloting their watercraft. Boating while intoxicated (or BWI) has been an offense in New Jersey since the early ’50s. About twenty years ago, legislators in Trenton revised the BWI statutes to provide a handful of ways in which a boater can be charged with drunken operation of a vessel.

New Jersey state law (N.J.S.A. 12:7-46) states that individuals who are suspected of being under the influence while in operation of a vessel in New Jersey waters are subject to being cited for BWI. There are currently four ways in which a boater can end up being found guilty of intoxicated operation of a watercraft (including alcohol, prescription medications and illicit drugs). As professional DWI-DUI defense lawyers, the trial attorneys at the law offices of Jonathan F. Marshall have the skills, training and experience to defend those individuals accused of BWI in the Garden State.

When it comes to being charged with boating while intoxicated, there are two terms written in the New Jersey statutes that must be well understood; these are the word “operation” and the phrase “waters of New Jersey.” As for the term “operation,” this is defined by state law, in a rather broad sense, as meaning the navigation, use, control, or command of a vessel. At this juncture, it is very important to understand that “operation” does not necessarily imply any movement of the vessel in question. In fact, an individual who is suspected of being intoxicated can be subject of a BWI arrest even though the vessel that he or she is commanding may be anchored or otherwise stationary in the water.

The second term, “waters of this state,” is generally defined as all waters or waterways within the legal jurisdiction of the state of New Jersey. These include tidal and non-tidal waters, as well as the marginal sea adjacent to New Jersey shoreline out to a distance of three nautical miles. In other words, the risk of receiving a BWI summons can be a very real possibility when a person is in command of a vessel just off shore, in the inland waters of the state, traversing inlets and lagoons, or negotiating the various back bays throughout the state’s jurisdiction.

Once arrested and charged, in order for a defendant to be found guilty the individuals must be proven to have been under the influence of an intoxicant, such as liquor, a narcotic, a hallucinogenic substance or a habit-producing drug. Obviously, the most frequent of these offenses is intoxication by alcohol. Very similar to a motorist who is charged with DWI, a boater can be convicted based on a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) that exceeds 0.08 percent.

As one can imagine, the opportunities for receiving a summons for BWI is not as remote as some people may believe, especially since law enforcement patrols are usually out and about during good boating weather all through the summer season, and then some. Making a simple navigational error may end with being boarded by an officer; if that happens and if alcohol is onboard and drinking suspected, there will likely be a lot of questions. If you find yourself charged with BWI, we can answer your questions. Meanwhile, have a safe and enjoyable boating season.