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.
During last year’s Operation Dry Water campaign, more than 40,000 vessels and over 60,000 boaters were encountered by law enforcement. Of those people, more than 300 nationwide were arrested for boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs (drug DUI). Police and USCG personnel issued more than 4,000 tickets were written and over 7,500 warning were given for safe boating violations.
Near New Jersey’s coastline, some of the heaviest enforcement areas have been off the shores of Atlantic City and Cape May. Just like land-based drunken driving enforcement, sobriety checkpoints are set up at various points on the water. While patrols on the water look for skippers navigating in a careless or reckless manner. Those boaters who are observed exhibiting possibly drunken behavior could be boarded and examined for intoxication.
Here in the Garden State, boaters convicted of BUI can potentially lose their boating privileges for up to one year, as well as their automobile license. In the past, this has translated to three months if one’s BAC reading is 0.08 percent or more, and seven months for a BAC of 0.10 percent or greater. In New Jersey, being convicted of boating under the influence can also result in a fine of between $240 and $400.
One important difference between the highway and the high seas is that a boat captain can be stopped by the authorities for a safety check any time, which then can result in a BUI charge if the skipper is found to be impaired by drugs or alcohol. On the road, a police officer must have a reason to stop a motor vehicle, such as failure to obey a traffic signal, broken tail lamp or brake light, or other traffic violation.
Drunk Boating Crackdown Set for This Weekend, Patch.com, June 24, 2011