Troy MI License Restoration Blog

Friday, June 5, 2015

Drive Sober or Get Your Boat Pulled Over

What penalties can you face if you operate a watercraft while intoxicated?

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, and of Michigan's boating season. If you are planning on heading out on the lake, don’t forget that this year the state’s blood-alcohol limit for boating dropped to 0.08 (down from 0.1 in previous years).

Most people think that they can only get a DWI/DUI for driving an automobile while intoxicated, but Michigan’s drunk driving law actually applies much more broadly. The same limit that applies to driving a car now applies to watercraft - from pontoons to seadoos - any type that can be used for transportation needs to have someone sober operating it. 
It is still legal to have open containers of alcohol and drink from them while on a boat, but it is not legal to operate a boat if your blood-alcohol content (BAC) is over 0.08. Operating has been defined as in control of the boat while it is underway. Thus, if a boat is tied to the dock or anchored, it is not being operated, but the second it “sets sail” the DWI/DUI law kicks in.

The penalties for boating under the influence are similar to automobile DWI/DUI penalties. If convicted, a judge can revoke your operating privileges, sentence you to jail, and/or impose a fine. Boating DWI/DUI convictions have no direct impact on your auto drivers’ license, but the judge will be able to see your full record at sentencing, and could impose a penalty on the higher end if they feel it is appropriate to do so.

The police are really cracking down on drunk boating this year since the law is new, so it is important to know your limit if you are the one in operating a boat. Although the BAC limit is the same for boats as it is for cars, drinking an amount that would not typically put you over the limit on land may put you well over the limit out on the water since alcohol gets absorbed much more quickly when you are out in the sun and not fully hydrated. Many boaters have been very surprised their BAC level was over the limit based on the small amount of alcohol they had consumed. 

If you have any questions about Michigan’s drunk driving laws, or have recently been cited for DWI/DUI - in any kind of vehicle – call experienced attorney Martin T. Lievois today for your free consultation. You can reach the office in Flint at (810)250.4550 or the office in Troy at (248)419.1566.

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