Operating any vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol is an absolute no-go. However, there’s an undeniable association between leisurely boating and beer among Maryland’s boating enthusiasts. With Memorial Day marking the start of Maryland’s boating season and the end of most pandemic restrictions, water lovers are predicting a surge in watercraft activity.
Unfortunately, the pandemic period saw a 25% uptick in boating fatalities — a number that’s projected to rise even further. Alcohol is frequently linked to boating accidents. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has noted that alcohol has a more dramatic effect on the body while boating. The primary culprits behind most boating accidents are:
- Alcohol consumption
- Operator distraction
- Operator inexperience
Despite the tendency for recreational boaters to indulge in a few drinks while navigating, boating under significant alcohol influence is illegal in Maryland. The law expressly prohibits operating watercraft under the influence or impairment of drugs or alcohol. If marine law enforcement officials determine that a boat operator has crossed the legal alcohol threshold, they can be charged with Boating Under the Influence (BUI) or Boating While Intoxicated (BWI).
Law enforcement may request that boat operators who are suspected of intoxication take a test to measure their blood alcohol content (BAC). This request is legal under Maryland law. The law says that if you are operating a vessel in Maryland waters, you have implicitly consented to random drug and alcohol tests. As a result, neither the United States Coast Guard nor the Maryland Natural Resources Police need a specific reason to board a vessel for a BUI or BWI check.
It should be noted that noncompliance with a request for a blood or breath test could lead to the suspension of boating privileges for up to a year.
If a boat operator’s breath or blood test registers an alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher, they are deemed to be under the influence of alcohol and could potentially face criminal charges.
Boating Under the Influence Penalties
Penalties for BUI are typically more stringent than for BWI. A first-time BUI offender in Maryland could face up to a $1,000 fine and/or a year in jail. A repeat offender risks doubled fines and/or jail time.
Boating While Intoxicated Penalties
A BWI charge often results when the blood alcohol concentration is between .07% and .08%. First-time BWI offenders face up to two months in jail and a $500 fine.
Impact on driving record
One common concern for those facing BUI or BWI charges is the potential impact on their driving record. However, a conviction for drunken boating does not affect your driving record or your Maryland driver’s license.
If you’re facing BUI or BWI charges, you should talk to a boating accident attorney. The attorneys at Maronick Law LLC have experience with Annapolis, Baltimore, Essex, Ocean City, Towson, White Marsh BUIs and BWIs. An Ocean City boating accident attorney can help if you are facing boating charges. The consultation is free.
Maronick Law LLC is open during the pandemic and continues to meet your legal needs. We can meet with you remotely if you have access to Zoom. You can contact the law office at 410-881-4022 or via our website for a free consultation.