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Is It Illegal to Drink While Boating?

Colburn Law

Navigating the waters can be a liberating experience, but with that freedom comes a responsibility to protect the safety of everyone on and around a boat. Drinking while boating is not only dangerous, but it is also illegal in Washington state.

The implications of drinking while operating a boat are severe and can have lasting consequences, both for perpetrators and their victims. If you are injured by an intoxicated boat operator, it is important to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.

Washington’s Boating Under the Influence Laws

In Washington, boating under the influence (BUI) is enforced under the jurisdiction of both state and federal law, which means that local police, state police, and the U.S. Coast Guard have the authority to implement these regulations. Under state law, a vessel includes every type of watercraft used for transportation on water, excluding items such as inner tubes and flotation devices intended for swimming.

It’s illegal for the operator of a vessel to have a breath or blood alcohol content of .08 or greater, a THC concentration of 5.00 or higher, or to be under the influence of any intoxicating substance. A person can be charged with a gross misdemeanor in these instances, even with a breath test below .08 or if they refuse the breath test altogether.

Potential Penalties for Boating While Drunk

The maximum penalty for BUI in Washington state is a sentence of up to 364 days in jail and fines of up to $5,000. Unlike a DUI, there is no license suspension associated with a BUI, nor is there a requirement to take a breath test.

While the maximum jail time is rare, having a BUI on your record can escalate the severity of penalties for any future driving under the influence (DUI) convictions. The state will consider a BUI as a prior offense, which can increase the jail time, fines, and administrative penalties associated with a DUI.

Legal Options for Victims of Intoxicated Boaters

Operating a vessel under the influence not only violates criminal law but also represents a breach of the boater’s duty to others on the water. If you are injured in a BUI accident, you have the right to seek justice and compensation for the harm that you have suffered.

A personal injury lawsuit is a powerful tool for boating accident victims, helping them hold the negligent party accountable and recover damages for injuries sustained due to the operator’s recklessness. In a successful boating accident lawsuit, you could recover compensation to pay for various types of damages, such as:

  • Past and future medical expenses associated with your injuries
  • Lost wages during treatment and recovery periods
  • Pain and suffering for the physical and emotional impact of the accident
  • Loss of future earnings if you are unable to return to your previous job
  • Property damage that you sustained in the boating accident

Speak To A Seattle Boating Accident Lawyer Today

Speak to a Seattle Boating Accident Lawyer Today

If you are a victim of an intoxicated boater’s negligence, it’s crucial to seek legal guidance. A Seattle boating accident lawyer can provide the necessary support to navigate through the legal system and advocate for your right to fair compensation. As soon as possible following your accident, contact an attorney to discuss your situation and hold the at-fault operator accountable.