No one should be operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs but beer and boating are a natural combination for many Maryland boaters. And with Memorial Day – the start of the Maryland boating season – just around the corner and pandemic restrictions mostly eliminated, a lot of watercraft will be on the waterways.
Sadly, boating fatalities have increased by 25% during the pandemic and are expected to climb even higher. Alcohol is often a factor in boating mishaps. Officials with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources have stated that “alcohol has a more dramatic effect on the body while boating.”
Most boating accidents stem from:
- alcohol use
- operator inattention and
- operator inexperience.
While recreational boaters often drink while driving the boat, boating and excessive alcohol use is illegal in the “Free State.”
Maryland law forbids operating a watercraft:
- while under the influence of drugs or alcohol or
- while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
If marine law enforcement finds that a boat operator’s use of alcohol has exceeded the legal limit, the boat operator can be charged with Boating Under the Influence (BUI) or Boating While Intoxicated (BWI).
Law enforcement can ask boaters to submit to a test to determine their blood alcohol content (BAC) if the vessel operators are suspected of being intoxicated.
The request for the test is legal. Maryland law states that operators of vessels in Maryland waters have consented to random tests for drugs and alcohol by law enforcement. So, neither the United States Coast Guard nor the Maryland Natural Resources Police need a reason to board a water vessel to check for a Maryland BUI or Maryland BWI.
Maryland boat operators who refuse to submit to a blood or breath test can lose their boating privileges for as long as one year.
Boating under the influence
Law enforcement views a boat operator whose breath or blood test shows an alcohol concentration of 0.08% or greater as being under the influence of alcohol. In some instances, a criminal prosecution can result, according to Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources.
A BUI conviction carries stronger penalties than a BWI conviction.
Boaters convicted of operating watercraft under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol face a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to one year in jail, under Maryland law. A first-offense Maryland BUI is a misdemeanor.
A second Maryland BUI conviction can result in a doubling of fines and/or jail time.
Boating while intoxicated
A person can be convicted of a BWI for operating a vessel while “so far impaired by any drug, combination of drugs, or combination of one or more drugs and alcohol that the person cannot operate a vessel safely.”
A Maryland BWI charge generally occurs when the blood alcohol concentration shows .07% to .08%.
A first BWI conviction in Maryland is a misdemeanor. Convicted boaters face a maximum of two months in jail and $500 in fines.
BWI/BUI conviction and Maryland driving privileges
Those facing a Maryland BUI or BWI charge are often concerned about the impact upon their driving privileges. A conviction for drunken boating does not affect your driving record. A Maryland BUI/BWI conviction will not affect your Maryland driver’s license.
An Ocean City boating accident lawyer can help you if you are charged with a BUI or BWI. Maronick Law is open during the pandemic and will continue to meet your Glen Burnie, Annapolis, Baltimore, Essex, Ocean City, Towson, White Marsh boating accident attorney needs. A Baltimore boating accident attorney can help if you have been charged with a BUI or a BWI. The consultation is free.
We can meet with you remotely if you have access to Zoom. You can contact Thomas Maronick on his cellphone at 202.288.0167, the law office at 410.881.4022 or through the website for a free consultation.