Come Memorial Day, one of the busiest boating days of the year, summer parties and boating season will be in full swing. Extra care needs to be taken on the water since alcohol and boating can easily become a very scary mix. Unfortunately, alcohol is the leading factor in approximately 34% of all boating deaths according to a 2014 United States Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics report.
Just as each state has Driving Under the Influence (DUI) laws to keep drivers, passengers, and the community safe, they also have Boating Under the Influence (BUI) laws. These laws allow law enforcement officials to stop boats and other watercraft, and verify that boat operators and passengers are safe enough to be allowed on the water. No matter the type of water craft you are operating (fishing boat, sailboat, yacht, etc.) you could be charged with BUI. Just like DUIs, BUIs result in serious consequences, from civil fines and the forfeiture of your boating license, to prison time in criminal cases involving a death.
Keep boating fun for everyone and reduce your risk of being arrested for Boating Under the Influence (BUI) and Minor in Possession (MIP) by following a few simple rules.
- To avoid a BUI, designate a sober captain before leaving the dock. A designated captain is similar to a designated driver except that they must know how to legally and correctly operate the watercraft you are occupying. A designated captain will be responsible for the vessel and passengers and ensure that all guests consuming alcohol on the vessel are of legal drinking age.
- If you are caught drinking alcohol underage, do not attempt to avoid a MIP charge by “tricking” an officer. Dropping your alcoholic beverage into the lake or river can result in a littering citation which may carry a higher fine than an MIP. Also, don’t lie about your name or age. Lying about your identity to a police officer who has lawfully detained you can possibly result in a jail sentence or probation.
You can secure your freedom and prevent a criminal record, jail time, heavy monetary fines, and increased boater and auto insurance rates by exercising proper judgement on the water. Having fun and being safe while boating are not mutually exclusive. We hope you have fun and stay safe on the water, but we are here if you need us.