Here in sunny Alabama, we aren’t limited to the waterways solely in the summer months, but June does kick off the unofficial start of the boating season, coinciding with National Safe Boating Week.
Our Birmingham boating DUI lawyers want to make sure we drive home the point that the laws regarding intoxication are the same on the water as they are on the road.
Specifically, the law states that you can’t be the driver or in actual physical control of a vessel or any aquaplane, water skis or any other type of marine transportation device if you have a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher. Additionally, you are forbidden from doing so while under the influence of a controlled substance or a combination of alcohol and a controlled substance or even under the influence of any substance that might impair your mental or physical abilities.
People tend to have a skewed perception that because they are out on the water that there is a more relaxed atmosphere with regard to DUI. Don’t assume that just because you weren’t stopped on the road it won’t affect your life on land.
Penalties for a first-time violation of this law could result in fines between $600 to $2,100, up to six months in jail and a license suspension of up to a year. On a second offense, the penalties are upped to a maximum fine of $5,100, a sentence of up to one year in jail and a license suspension of up to three years.
If you cause a boating accident or injury, the penalties will be similar to what they would have been had such an incident taken place on the road.
Know too that if you are over the age of 21 and are caught drinking and operating a vessel while someone under the age of 14 is aboard, your fines and penalties will automatically double.
And you are also held to the standard of implied consent, meaning if you refuse a breathalyzer, you can still be charged with a DUI and you will face an automatic license suspension of one year.
Alabama marine authorities say there were a total of 75 boating accidents last year.
Throughout the U.S., there were 651 boating deaths last year. Of those, 17 percent involved alcohol, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
There are many locations throughout Alabama for boaters to enjoy, but the strict blood-alcohol content laws for boat drivers don’t simply apply here. A recent article in USA Today showed that most states have adopted the 0.08 percent standard for boaters. The only states that still use the 0.10 threshold are Wyoming, North Dakota and Michigan. Georgia just reduced its limit last month.
Top contributing causes of boating deaths in 2012, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, were alcohol use, hazardous waters, operator inexperience, operator inattention, weather, excessive speed, sudden medical condition improper loading and overloading.