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Is it illegal to drink while boating

We have all seen an episode of Cops where a blatantly intoxicated driver tries and fails to prove his or her sobriety – and we all know how consequential the decision to drink and drive is. And even though Los Angeles is on the beautiful Pacific, many people tend to underestimate the dangers and consequences of boating while intoxicated. Yes, it is illegal to drink while boating. However, open container laws do not work in the same way as it does with motor vehicles; passengers can drink aboard these vessels.

These laws are made to keep people safe; drinking while driving contributes to 28 daily fatalities, and drinking while boating claimed 137 lives in 2014. While you can drink on a boat, it is illegal to operate one of these vehicles under the influence of intoxicating drugs or liquor. The BAC levels are the same as for cars, though even a legal amount (specifically, between 0.05% and 0.08%) may qualify a person as intoxicated if he or she exhibits unsafe driving, slurred speech, and similar signs of alcohol use.

Though it can be fun to relax at sea, drinking and boating is a risky combination. It might be easier to make an excuse for drinking on a boat, but both can have fatal consequences. For example, approximately a quarter of all boat-related fatalities involved alcohol. Other consequences may include:

  • Collisions, either with other vessels or personal property. Drinking affects one’s judgment, depth perception, and reaction time. Traveling high speeds at sea can be disorienting on its own; alcohol needlessly exacerbates the problem.
  • Falling overboard and drowning. Drowning accounts for 66% of all alcohol-related fatalities at sea. Furthermore, a high blood alcohol content increases a person’s susceptibility to hypothermia and related problems.

Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol is a misdemeanor that can result in up to one year in jail and fines. Injuring another person, though, amplifies the punishment. Under these conditions, drinking while boating is a felony warranting up to a year in prison and $5,000 in fines. It is a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison if a person is killed due to this negligence.

If you are pulled over or arrested for operating a boat under the influence, your blood alcohol levels will likely be checked with a blood or breath test. Refusing to comply with this order or a history of previous arrests or alcohol issues can lead to stiffer penalties. In addition to these consequences, you may be required to take and pass a boating safety course. The Department of Motor Vehicles could suspend your boating license, as well. Those under 21 cannot operate a boat or any watercraft with any amount of alcohol in their systems.

There are legal options you can pursue if injured by a drunk boater. First, you must file a written boating accident report with the Department of Boating and Waterways. The state requires this when a person dies, disappears, or is injured and needs medical treatment. If you suffer property damages exceeding $500 or a total loss of your own vessel, you must also complete these forms. This process is critically important, and if you need to pursue legal action in the future, documentation like this will be a cornerstone of your case.

Negligent driving is a major issue, contributing to thousands of fatal injuries a year – whether a driver looks down at a cell phone, falls asleep, or drinks and gets behind the wheel of a car or boat. Do not suffer at the hand of such negligence and disregard alone. Fight for your rights, and pursue fair compensation in Los Angeles. Reach out to Grey Law for more information today.

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