Garden State DWI-DUI Update: Avoid Running Aground with a Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) Charge

While some non-boaters probably don’t know that the State of New Jersey legal statutes have a specific section that covers operation of a watercraft while under the influence of alcohol, prescription meds or illicit drugs; however, anyone who does pilot a boat in state waters should be aware of the law that addresses such situations. As Garden State drunken driving defense lawyers, my colleagues and I know the downside to being arrested, charged and convicted of DWI, but it is important to note that BWI (boating while intoxicated) has its own consequences.

When it comes to operating a watercraft while under the influence, the BWI statute (specifically N.J.S.A. 12:7-46) acts very much like the automobile-related DWI law (N.J.S.A. 39:4-50). If a boater is charged with BWI, my firm is staffed with a group of highly skilled and experienced attorneys who know how to handle such cases. For instance, a qualified DWI-DUI lawyer should understand that in order for the state to prove a person is guilty BWI, three elements must be covered:

First and foremost, the prosecution must show that the defendant was actually operating the watercraft or vessel in question. Second, the alleged operation of said vessel must have occurred on waters within the legal jurisdiction of the State of New Jersey. Finally, the third element involves proving that the accused boater was legally under the influence of an intoxicating beverage; or a hallucinogenic, narcotic, or habit-forming drug.

In terms of alcohol-related BWI, the usually method of proving intoxication is through the use of a chemical breath test or direct blood draw in order to determine the suspect’s blood-alcohol concentration (BAC), which must be 0.08 percent or more. Just as in cases of DWI, a person who is charged with BWI must be tested within the laws of the State of New Jersey. If the testing equipment is not correctly maintained, or the police do not follow the proper protocols and procedures, the defense can challenge the BAC results in a court of law.

Of course, not all BWI cases are thrown out for lack of evidence or improper procedure. If a conviction is imminent there will be an impact to the defendant’s boating license, as well as his or her automobile operator’s license. An experienced legal expert in the area of drunk driving law can explain the details, however the following will be helpful as a general overview:

License Suspension Following a BWI Conviction
–First Offense: Boating license revoked for one year / driver’s license suspended for three months –Second Offense: Boating License suspended for two year / driver’s license suspended for six months –Third Offense: Boating license revoked for ten years / driver’s license suspended for two years
As legal professionals with years of experience in the area of drunk driving defense, we also advise individuals to be aware of the additional penalties involved with BWI. While losing one’s license (boating or automobile) can be an extreme hardship, being sentenced to serve a jail term is much more serious. Although there is no jail term required for a first-offense BWI in New Jersey, subsequent convictions can involve some amount of incarceration. For a second offense, there can be a two- to 90-day jail sentence imposed by the court. For third BWI conviction, there is a mandatory 180-day jail term.

If there is any silver lining to the BWI question, it may be the statute of limitation regarding the filing of charges against a boater. Per New Jersey law (N.J.S.A. 12:7-57), the state must file charges of BWI against an individual within 90 days of the said offense, otherwise the complaint will be barred. Of course, this and many other points regarding BWI or DWI can be answered by a skilled drunk driving attorney. We highly recommend that anyone accused of either of these offenses consult a legal professional prior to stepping into a Garden State courtroom.