The summer is boating season here in the Seattle area. As a result, boaters should be aware that Washington has boating under the influence (BUI) laws similar to driving under the influence (DUI) laws.
Under the Washington statutes, it is illegal for an individual to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol. Analogous to DUI laws, Washington laws make it a de facto BUI for someone to drink and boat with a 0.08 blood alcohol content or higher. Also analogous to DUI laws, an individual with a lower blood alcohol content may be charged with a BUI if that person's boating abilities are otherwise impaired by alcohol.
Washington BUI laws apply to all vessels in the water. So you do not necessarily need to be "boating" to be charged with a BUI. Instead, you could be charged with a BUI for kayaking, canoeing, or using other water craft while under the influence.
Penalties for a BUI in Washington
An individual charged with a BUI in Washington faces misdemeanor criminal charges. The penalties can include up to 90 days in jail and a monetary fine. More serious BUI cases can result in felony charges and significant prison time.
However, you should know that boating under the influence and driving under the influence laws are distinct. So if you are convicted of a BUI, this typically will not affect your ability to drive. So you may not need to install an ignition interlock device in your car or face a driver's license suspension.
Signs of Boating Under the Influence
Authorities are on the lookout for a variety of signs of boating under the influence. Some signs of BUI can include:
- Erratic driving
- Open containers of alcohol
- Stalled boat
Contact a King County BUI Attorney
Because of the differences between a BUI and DUI, you will want to work with an attorney experienced in Washington boating under the influence laws. The attorneys at Cowan Kirk Gaston Wolff are experienced at defending both BUIs and DUIs. To learn how our attorneys can help you, contact us at 1-866-822-1230 to schedule a consultation.