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.
Presumption of Guilt and Refusing a Breathalyzer
There is a binding legal agreement known as “implied consent” included in the obtaining of both a driver’s license and boating license. This means you have automatically consented to drug or alcohol testing should you be stopped for operating a vessel while intoxicated. After performing a number of sobriety tests, a breathalyzer test may be requested. A BAC of 0.08 or above results in an automatic “presumption of guilt,” at which point you will likely be arrested. If you refuse to agree to a breathalyzer, blood, or urine test, both your boating and driver’s licenses will immediately be suspended for up to an entire year. Vessel registration will be cancelled up to a maximum 120 days.
Altman & Altman, LLP – Boston’s Boating Lawyers
Operating a vessel under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a serious offense that may lead to severe injury or death. Loss of control can lead to collision with other boats, fixed objects, and water skiers. If you or someone close to you has been injured in a boating accident due to another person’s intoxication, seeking legal counsel is in your best interest. Medical and pharmaceutical expenses and long-term psychological repercussions can be overwhelming. It is your legal right to be compensated for these damages as you focus on your recovery. At Altman & Altman, LLP our Boston injury lawyers are committed to pursuing the best legal course for our clients. We will discuss your case with you in detail, always with honesty and respect for your situation. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free consultation.