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Boating and alcohol update.

Posted by on June 19, 2014

Operation Dry Water.

Washington State law enforcement agencies will participate in “Operation Dry Water” on June 27 – June 29th.

Marine patrols will contact boaters and warn operators about the legal consequences of boating under the influence (BUI). Contacts may also include equipment and safety inspections. In 2013, “Operation Dry Water” resulted in 3,908 boater contacts. According to Washington State Parks there were 1,364 boating safety warnings, 6 BUI citations and 219 citations for other violations.

Boating Under the Influence is a serious crime with serious consequences.  Violation of the BUI law is a gross misdemeanor in the State of Washington.   The maximum time in jail is 90 days and the maximum fine is $1000 dollars. RCW 9.92.030.  But if the arrest is made by the United States Coast Guard a larger fine can be imposed for violations depending on the circumstances. Additionally, a vessel operator under the influence of drugs or alcohol that causes death or serious injury can face a Class B and Class A felony. RCW 79A.60.050 and RCW 79A.60.060.

In addition to the legal penalties boaters should be aware of long range consequences. Insurance costs for your boat, and your car, may increase as a result of a BUI citation. Additionally, because a BUI is a criminal infraction, travel to your favorite cruising grounds in Canada (the Gulf Islands, the Sunshinc Coast, Desolation Sound, the Broughton Islands, Barkley Sound) may all be off limits. Canada routinely prohibits entry to persons with alcohol driving infractions.  It is not clear yet how Canadian authorities may handle BUI infractions since the Washington BUI penalties are different from DUI but you must consider this potential consequence.

Visit for more information about inadmissability to Canada resulting from DUI convictions.

It is very important to understand that the definition of a “vessel” under the Washington BUI law is very broad.  Despite what you might think or what you might have been told,  “Both the state law and federal BUI regulations apply to all vessels, regardless of how small or however powered. In other words, the laws apply even to canoes, row boats and small inflatable boats.”



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