With August in full swing, many recreational boaters are taking as much advantage of the remaining boating season as possible. The final weeks of summer recreation have increased potential for unfortunate accidents involving drinking and boating. The US Coast Guard’s Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety reports alcohol use as the leading factor in boating fatalities in Massachusetts, despite persistent warnings from safety officials. Many boaters tend to dismiss the effects of sun, wind, heat, and motion in combination with even a minimum amount of alcohol consumption. The cultural perception of drinking while boating coincides with the concept of leisure, relaxation, and celebration. However, drinking and boating has been perceived by many law enforcement officials as more dangerous than drinking and driving.
Penalties for Boating Under the Influence
Massachusetts has some of the strictest penalties for boating under the influence (BUI) in the United States. Repercussions from “boozing and boating” are the same as those for receiving a DUI (driving under the influence). These penalties apply to the influence of other substances as well, including narcotics, stimulants, depressants, marijuana, or any combination of these. As with motor vehicles, the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit for operating a vessel is 0.08.
Legal consequences are dependent on factors like the defendant’s legal history and damages and injuries incurred due to the accident:
- First time offense – If charged, the defendant may receive a maximum of one and a half years of prison time, or a maximum $1,000 fine, or both. Both motor vehicle and vessel licenses may be revoked for up to a year.
- Second offense within six years – While the maximum fine remains at $1,000, maximum prison time increases to two and a half years.
- Penalties increase with consecutive offenses and increased severity of injuries to others.