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Seafair DUI and BUI

Posted by William Kirk, Partner | Aug 07, 2015 | 0 Comments

We are fast approaching one of our favorite past times in the Seattle area, Seafair weekend.  However, with weather anticipated to be in the high 80's and the Blue Angels return in recent years, the number of boaters on the lake will be met with a huge volume of law enforcement looking for impaired boaters.  Last year's efforts to curb impaired boating, appeared at least, to be successful.  

Take this from the Seattle Times August 4, 2014:

The number of people arrested on suspicion of boating under the influence during Seafair weekend was lower as of Sunday evening than in years past.

Police said there were 30 BUI incidents, a reckless boating citation and one minor in possession of marijuana. 

Last year, 67 people were arrested during Seafair weekend. Back in 2009, 110 people were arrested on suspicion of BUI.

Police credit increased patrols and an increased cooperation among agencies for bringing the number down.

“Our message to boaters is please get a designated driver,” said Commander Leslie Burns with Mercer Island Police.

 She said that message over the years has really spread.

 "We're measuring success this year, in the lack of injuries, the lack of boating collisions and lack of drownings," said Burns.

And even though the number of arrests have decreased in recent years, law enforcement will be as aggressive as ever to make as many arrests for impaired boating in order to justify the incredible budget and overtime that comes with Seafair weekend.

Remember, the only way you can truly avoid a BUI is to not drink and operate a vessel.  But if you do find yourself being investigated for BUI, here are a few simple tips:

1.  REMEMBER, the entire lake, south of the I-90 bridge and north of the southern most point of Mercer Island IS A NO WAKE ZONE.  You must be a dead troll speed at all times.  If you are not, YOU WILL GET PULLED OVER.  Wake violations are the most common reason police stop vessels.

2.  REMEMBER, you cannot pull anyone or anything in the NO WAKE ZONE the entire Seafair weekend.  No inner tubes or other floatation devices are permitted.  If police see your vessel underway while pulling someone or something, you will be pulled over.

3.  REMEMBER, even though you have an "open bow" boat, you cannot have individuals riding in the bow while the vessel is underway.  If police see your vessel underway with people riding on the bow, you will be pulled over.

4.  ALWAYS be polite to law enforcement, not matter how they choose to treat you.

5.  You can and should decline any field sobriety testing.  While officers on the side of the road are pretty good at advising drivers that field tests are voluntary, they rarely inform a boater of their options.  You need to know right now, that you DO NOT have to perform field tests.  Politely decline and inform the police that this is based upon advice from your lawyer.   

6.  You can and should decline any portable breath testing on the water.

7.  If arrested, do no resist and remain silent.  No matter what, remain silent and let law enforcement know that you want to speak with an attorney as soon as you return to shore.

8.  Once onshore and in police custody, IMMEDIATELY REQUEST TO SPEAK WITH AN ATTORNEY.  If you cannot reach the attorney of your choice, ask for the public defender.  Contrary to popular belief, you do not necessarily have the right to speak with the attorney of your choice and often times, on weekends and/or evenings, the attorney of your choice might be difficult to reach.  If the police have made reasonable efforts to contact the attorney of your choice, then immediately ask for the "on call" public defender.  

9.  Make sure that your conversation with your attorney IS CONDUCTED IN PRIVATE.  Immediately request privacy for that phone conversation.  If the police decline to give you privacy, immediately inform the attorney of this.

10.  DO NOT answer any further questions from the police.  

11.  DO NOT SUBMIT TO A BREATH TEST.  Unlike in the DUI context, a refusal to submit to a breath test when arrested for BUI, cannot be used against you in the court of law.  Moreover, our Implied Consent Law is not tied into recreational vessels, so you will not lose your drivers' license for refusing a breath test if arrested for BUI.  HOWEVER, you must be aware that if you refuse to submit to a breath test, you may be issued a civil infraction (ticket) with an assessed fine of $1,000.  The attorney you speak with should and must find out, however, that if you refuse, will the officer obtain a warrant for your blood.  If that is a possibility, you and your attorney must discuss that as based upon how much you have consumed, this may change this advice and necessitate that you submit to the test.

Hopefully, you will not need these tips.  But in the event that you do, we are here to help.  Remember, the only way you can avoid a BUI is to not consume alcohol and then operate a vessel.  Boat safe, boat sober and be smart.  

About the Author

William Kirk, Partner

Bill Kirk has been named a Super Lawyer by Washington Law and Politics Magazine every year since 2003. He currently serves on the Board of Regents to the National College for DUI Defense and is the President of the Washington Foundation for Criminal Justice. Bill is one of only two attorneys in this state to pass the National College's Board Certification Exam.


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