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Washington State BUI Statute

Posted by on December 26, 2013

Washington State’s New “Drunk Boating” Statute is Now in Effect.  Big Changes are Now if Effect.

 

 The Washington Legislature enacted new boating safety laws in 2013.  Included in the enactment are amendments to RCW 79A.60 (Regulation of Recreational Vessels) The new amendments place new restrictions and penalties governing alcohol consumption while operating a vessel.  The new law went into effect on July 28, 2013.

 

A vessel is defined as, follows: “Vessel” includes every description of watercraft on the water, other than a seaplane, used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on the water. However, it does not include inner tubes, air mattresses, sailboards, and small rafts or flotation devices or toys customarily used by swimmers.

 

 A “vessel” includes your dinghy, kayak, rowboat, canoe, etc.  Rowing in your dinghy back to your boat at anchor or at a buoy after a few drinks with friends at the dock or at a bar is governed by the new law.

 

 It is now categorically “unlawful to operate a vessel while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or and drug”. 

 

 A person is considered to be under the influence if within 2 hours of operating a vessel a “person has an alcohol concentration of .08 or higher as shown by analysis of the person’s breath or blood made under RCW 46.61.506”.   

 

That is the same blood alcohol level that constitutes drunk driving in Washington.  But as with drunk driving, you can be found guilty even if your blood alcohol level is less than .08, if you are “under the influence or affected by intoxicating alcohol…”

 

This is an important distinction.  Your ability to operate a vessel may be “affected” after just one or two cans of beer or glasses of wine.

 

 The following charts show approximations for how much alcohol you can drink before reaching the prohibited .08 level.  THESE ARE ONLY APPROXIMATE NUMBERS.  Every person metabolizes alcohol a bit differently and other factors (such as an empty stomach) can have a substantial effect.

 

 

Men

Approximate Blood Alcohol Percentage

Drinks

Body Weight in Pounds

100

120

140

160

180

200

220

240

0

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

Only Safe Driving Limit

1

.04

.03

.03

.02

.02

.02

.02

.02

Impairment Begins

2

.08

.06

.05

.05

.04

.04

.03

.03

Driving Skills Affected

Possible Criminal Penalties

3

.11

.09

.08

.07

.06

.06

.05

.05

4

.15

.12

.11

.09

.08

.08

.07

.06

5

.19

.16

.13

.12

.11

.09

.09

.08

6

.23

.19

.16

.14

.13

.11

.10

.09

7

.26

.22

.19

.16

.15

.13

.12

.11

Legally Intoxicated

8

.30

.25

.21

.19

.17

.15

.14

.13

9

.34

.28

.24

.21

.19

.17

.15

.14

Criminal Penalties

10

.38

.31

.27

.23

.21

.19

.17

.16

Your body can get rid of one drink per hour. One drink is 1.5 oz. of 80 proof liquor, 12 oz. of beer, or 5 oz. of table wine.

 

 

Women

Approximate Blood Alcohol Percentage

Drinks

Body Weight in Pounds

90

100

120

140

160

180

200

220

240

0

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

Only Safe Driving Limit

1

.05

.05

.04

.03

.03

.03

.02

.02

.02

Impairment Begins

2

.10

.09

.08

.07

.06

.05

.05

.04

.04

Driving Skills Affected

Possible Criminal Penalties

3

.15

.14

.11

.10

.09

.08

.07

.06

.06

4

.20

.18

.15

.13

.11

.10

.09

.08

.08

5

.25

.23

.19

.16

.14

.13

.11

.10

.09

6

.30

.27

.23

.19

.17

.15

.14

.12

.11

7

.35

.32

.27

.23

.20

.18

.16

.14

.13

Legally Intoxicated

8

.40

.36

.30

.26

.23

.20

.18

.17

.15

9

.45

.41

.34

.29

.26

.23

.20

.19

.17

Criminal Penalties

10

.51

.45

.38

.32

.28

.25

.23

.21

.19

Your body can get rid of one drink per hour. One drink is 1.5 oz. of 80 proof liquor, 12 oz. of beer, or 5 oz. of table wine.

 

 Although the above charts are approximate values only it is important to realize that impairment begins at very low blood alcohol levels.

 

 The new law also creates “implied consent” to a breath test or blood test.  “Any person wo operates a vessel within this State is deemed ot have given consent…to a test or tests of the person’s breath or blood”  to determine alcohol (or THC from marijuana) content.  Field sobriety tests may also be used to establish whether a person is under the influence.  Refusal to submit to the breath test or blood test will result in a citation for a class 1 civil infraction under RCW 7.80.120.  The specified penalty is a fine up to $1,000.00.   However RCW 3.62.090 (the public safety and education assessment) adds 105 percent to the penalty, so the total fine could be up to $2,050.

 

 Operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, or any drug is a gross misdemeanor.  If you are found guilty, the maximum penalty is up to a $5,000 fine and/or 364 days in jail.

 

 However, the fine and jail sentence is not the end of the story.  Your insurance cost for your boat your will be dramatically affected.  You will have more difficulty getting insurance.  Your auto insurance costs may also be affected.   Additionally, your permission to travel to other countries (particularly Canada) may be revoked.  It is common for British Columbia to refuse travel into Canada to persons convicted of driving under the influence.  It remains to be seen whether the same restriction will apply to persons convicted of boating under the influence.  If so, it will mean being cut off from enjoying some of the best cruising destinations in the world.

 

 Think about that for a minute.

 

 Although the new restrictions have been well reported in newspapers and on-line, it appears the full implications of the new law have not fully set in.  It is still legal to consume alcohol while operating a vessel (unlike an automobile) but if you drink just a little too much and get caught the consequences may be severe.  Many, many people routinely have a drink, or two, or three, or four in the afternoon while relaxing ashore, or while at anchor, or after dinner, before returning to the launch ramp or marina.  But under this new law, doing so in view of a Park Ranger or any other person with law enforcement authority, or even another nearby boater, will put you at risk of substantial penalties, including time in jail.

 

You should expect to see attorney advertising in your favorite boating magazine in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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