Boating Under the Influence in Washington

Mark Kaiman Bellingham criminal defense attorney Mark A. Kaiman

Lustick, Kaiman & Madrone, PLLC
222 Grand Avenue, Suite “A”
Bellingham, WA 98225
Telephone: 360 685-4221 | FAX: 360 734-4222

Email: info@lustick.com

Everyone is aware of the penalties associated with driving under the influence, but fewer know that boating under the influence (BUI) in Washington can also land you in hot water. Like drivers on the road, boaters are required to stay within the legal limits when consuming intoxicating substances. This means a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) below .08, and under 5.0 nanograms for marijuana.

Boating Under the Influence: What Counts as a Boat?

The Washington BUI law is very broad in its definition of “vessels” that operate on the water. While small inflatable tubes are acceptable, boats of all shapes and sizes, including kayaks, canoes, rowboats, and even inflatable fishing rafts fall under the definition of “vessel.”

Boating Under the Influence: Your Rights If Pulled Over

If an officer has probable cause to believe the boat operator is intoxicated, they can ask the driver to submit to a breath test. Operators may refuse to take the test, but in doing so, they may be subjected to civil penalties of up to $2,050.

Boating Under the Influence: Penalties and Fines

Operating a boat under the influence in Washington is considered a gross misdemeanor and is punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000 and up to 364 days in jail. Although a BUI won’t restrict your driver’s license, it will be considered a “prior offense.” If you receive a DUI charge in the future, or are currently on probation for a DUI, a BUI can compound the consequences into something much more serious.

The BUI charge may also be upgraded to a felony if someone was injured during the incident.

Boating Under the Influence: Emphasis Patrols This Summer

Beginning on Memorial Day and running through Aug. 19, state and local law enforcement agencies will join forces for BUI emphasis patrols in Washington’s waterways. Heavy enforcement will occur statewide, including on local lakes and the waters off Whatcom, Skagit, and San Juan Counties. Our attorneys at Lustick Kaiman & Madrone are experts at defending Boating Under the Influence charges. If you get stopped on the water this summer, your first call should be to us.

Stay safe this summer, and find someone other than Captain Morgan to steer your ship.