Boating Under the Influence in Washington

boating under the influence

It is not illegal to drink alcohol or consume other (legal) drugs while operating a boat. But it is illegal to do so if your blood alcohol level is greater than .08 or you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In Washington, you can be charged with Boating Under the Influence, or BUI, if you are operating any type of vessel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This includes vessels from a fishing boat, sailboat, yacht, or personal watercraft, to a sailboard, kayak, or canoe.

As a practical matter, BUI charges are similar to charges for Driving Under the Influence. However, a Boating Under the Influence charge does not carry mandatory penalties or license suspensions.

If you are convicted for a first-time BUI offense, you face up to 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.

If you have been charged with a BUI in Washington, the experienced criminal defense lawyers at the Campbell Law Firm can help.

Washington’s Boating Under the Influence Law

Just like the driver of a car, a Washington boat operator is considered legally intoxicated if they:

  • Have an alcohol concentration of .08 or higher;
  • Have a THC concentration of 5.00 or higher;
  • Are under the influence of an intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or other drug; or
  • Are under the combined influence of intoxicating liquor, marijuana, and any drug

Law enforcement agents are authorized to stop a boat if they suspect the operator is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Other times, another boater may suspect you are boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol and report you to law enforcement. Or perhaps a law enforcement agent chose to inspect your boat. During your interaction, if law enforcement has reason to believe you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they can investigate you under suspicion of BUI.

The Coast Guard and local law enforcement work together to enforce Washington BUI laws. In waters that are solely overseen by the state of Washington, state law enforcement officers have the authority to enforce state BUI laws.

In waters that are subject to federal jurisdiction, state law enforcement agents and the US Coast Guard cooperate to enforce the law. If a boater is apprehended by the Coast Guard and is suspected of BUI, the Coast Guard will require that state law enforcement agents take the boater into custody.

When a boater is stopped under suspicion of BUI, law enforcement agents can terminate the voyage and either bring the vessel to a mooring or place it under the control of a non-intoxicated person on board. The intoxicated operator may be arrested, detained, or turned over to local authorities.

Defenses to a BUI Charge

Defending someone who was charged with BUI is similar to defending against charges of DUI. A criminal defense lawyer can challenge the results of a breath or blood test and whether law enforcement had probable cause to stop the vessel. Law enforcement agents may try to administer Field Sobriety Tests, or FSTs; however, they were not designed for use on the water. As a result, a skilled BUI defense attorney can challenge a BUI charge, seek to have evidence of alleged intoxication suppressed, and fight the evidence that prosecutors are likely to present to try to convict you of BUI.

The Campbell Law Firm: Defending People Accused of BUI

If you have been charged with BUI in Island County, Skagit County, or San Juan County, the Campbell Law Firm can help.

Criminal defense lawyer Justin Campbell will evaluate your case, fight for your rights, and help you avoid the most severe consequences of a BUI conviction. He will also explain the potential consequences of a Boating Under the Influence conviction, challenge whether law enforcement had probable cause to believe you were violating the law and the way evidence was obtained, and work hard to negotiate a favorable plea bargain or defend you at trial.

Learn why clients choose us, then contact the Campbell Law Firm by calling (360) 588-4111, emailing, or completing our online form.

The Campbell Law Firm proudly represents people accused of crimes in Island County, Oak Harbor, Coupeville, San Juan County, Friday Harbor, and all courts in Skagit County, including Anacortes, Mount Vernon, Burlington, and Sedro-Woolley.

We offer a free 90-minute consultation to help you understand how hiring an experienced BUI defense attorney can help and get answers to all of your questions. We handle most Boating Under the Influence cases on a flat fee.

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