Articles Posted in Boating DWI

As New Jersey drunken driving defense attorneys we won’t argue that mixing alcohol with boating can lead to disaster, but at the same time it is certain that many people who are arrested for drunken boating (boat DUI or “BUI”) may have been falsely charged. Of course, if this is the situation then a person must take their case to court. Why? Because BUI has the same implications and potential penalties as driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

Drunken boating offenses, like that of drunk driving, are enforced by state and local police agencies. During enhanced BUI enforcement periods, anti-drunk-boating patrols can be manned by a combination of local police, New Jersey State Police and the United States Coast Guard (USCG). Just like the campaign that recently concluded, named “Operation Dry Water,” the USCG and New Jersey State Police teamed up to seek out boat operators whose blood-alcohol content (BAC) levels exceeded the national legal limit of 0.08 percent.

As many people already know, 0.08 percent is the identical value that can put a four-wheeled motorist on a course for a DWI conviction. In fact, according recent stats from the USCG, BUI is the main causal factor when it comes to fatal boating accidents — based on those figures, say news articles on the subject, 17 percent of private watercraft deaths can be traced directly back to some kind of alcohol consumption or drug use prior to the fatal accident.
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With summer not far away, it’s not too soon to mention that boaters, like motorists on land, need to watch their alcohol consumption if they plan to be piloting their watercraft this year. While it may be fin to hear the strains of, “What do you do with a drunken sailor?” New Jersey’s law enforcement agencies are just as strict about boating under the influence (BUI) as they are driving while intoxicated (DWI).

What many people don’t always understand is that the same standards governing drinking and driving for landlubbers applies as much to captains of watercraft. As New Jersey drunk driving defense lawyers, we know the law. No matter if you’re on an inland lake or running just offshore along Atlantic, Ocean or Cape May County, as the pilot of your boat if you’ve been drinking you could be charged with DWI.

Just as a driver of an automobile, a boater whose blood-alcohol content (BAC) is over 0.08 percent, you can be arrested. And the same applies to drug DUI and breath test refusal. The reasons for this are simple; the statutes governing drunk driving on land are nearly the same as those for operating a boat when inebriated. DWI penalties for drunken boating are also quite similar.

When it comes to driving under the influence of alcohol on New Jersey’s public roads, “tolerance” is by no means a word found in the vocabulary of the state’s law enforcement community. Similarly the state has no patience for drinking and piloting a boat along the Garden State’s coastline, its lakes or rivers and estuaries. DWI on the high seas, so to speak is just as serious an offense as here on land.

What’s surprising is that boat owners don’t always consider that the same standards which govern drinking and driving on public roads also apply to the operation of watercraft. Boaters must observe the same drunken driving laws as car, motorcycle and truck owners. Because of this, individuals who violate the DWI laws while boating are also subject to arrest for driving while intoxicated. And also included with this are those related offenses, such as prescription drug DUI and breath test refusal when the operator of a boat has a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) in excess of 0.08 percent.

New Jersey’s statutes governing operation of a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs are nearly identical to those that pertain to DWI with a motor vehicle. The penalties are also closely related. The implied consent laws that oblige a licensed driver to submit to a breath or blood test following a drunk driving stop also applies to the operator of a watercraft in New Jersey.

Any small craft captain worth his salt knows it’s boating season, but before you power up your twin inboard, take a moment to scan the horizon and double-check your alcoholic beverage intake. This weekend, from Sandy Hook to Cape May, the New Jersey State Police will be patrolling offshore in search of intoxicated boat operators. And just like DWI for landlubbers, being arrested for boating under the influence (or BUI) can be a costly experience.

Drunk boating, like drunk driving, is enforced by local and state police units. This latest campaign, christened “Operation Dry Water,” begins today and runs through Sunday, June 28. It’s a combined effort between the New Jersey State Police and the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and designed to hook skippers piloting their craft under the influence of alcohol in state waters, which includes bays and the ocean up to three miles out.

According to the USCG, enforcement will be heaviest in the Atlantic City and Cape May areas, with sobriety checkpoints set up at various points on the water. In addition to BUI offenses, law enforcement personnel will be looking for anyone navigating recklessly or carelessly. Those observed exhibiting drunken behavior should be prepared to be boarded and examined for intoxication.

In New Jersey, boaters can lose their boating privileges for one year and their automobile driver’s license as well. That’s three months for a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more, and seven months for 0.10 percent or more. You should know that while New Jersey does not confiscate boats of those captains who are arrested for BUI, other states do confiscate watercraft.

Authorities also will usually administer field sobriety tests, although they can be somewhat different from those conducted on dry land. And although they do not want to give away their tactics in detail for this coming weekend, law enforcement agencies say their goal is not to arrest boaters so much as to educate them about the BUI problem.

One message authorities are pushing is that alcohol has an enhanced effect on the water. According to experts, the glaring sun, waves, motion of the boat and other influences aboard a boat only help the body absorb alcohol faster. This can impair an individual’s motor functions, reaction time, judgment and other critical boating skills.
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