Everyone knows about the dangers and legal consequences of driving while under the influence, but we have a tendency to get lax when it comes to other situations. For example, while most of us would never dream of getting behind the wheel of our car after we’ve had a few beers, we have no hesitation when it comes to steering a boat as we drink.
One of the reasons we don’t give boating under the influence a second thought is because very little is ever said about the legal repercussions of doing so. The truth is, that if you’re caught driving a boat while intoxicated, your immediate future could be ruined.
The issue of boating under the influence in California is dealt discussed in Harbors & Navigation Code 655. The law states that:
(b) No person shall operate any vessel or manipulate water skis, an aquaplane, or a similar device while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, any drug, or the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and any drug.
(c) No person shall operate any recreational vessel or manipulate any water skis, aquaplane, or similar device if the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more in his or her blood.
(d) No person shall operate any vessel other than a recreational vessel if the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.04 percent or more in his or her blood.
(e) No person shall operate any vessel, or manipulate water skis, an aquaplane, or a similar device who is addicted to the use of any drug. This subdivision does not apply to a person who is participating in a narcotic treatment program approved pursuant to Article 3 (commencing with Section 11875) of Chapter 1 of Part 3 of Division 10.5 of the Health and Safety Code.
(f) No person shall operate any vessel or manipulate water skis, an aquaplane, or a similar device while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, any drug, or under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and any drug, and while so operating, do any act forbidden by law, or neglect any duty imposed by law in the use of the vessel, water skis, aquaplane, or similar device, which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than himself or herself.
Getting caught boating under the influence isn’t a joke. You will be charged and face legal consequences. The exact consequences will depend on if it’s your first offense and exactly which aspect of Harbors & Navigation Code 655 was violated.
In most situations, boating under the influence in California is a misdemeanor offense. The maximum sentence for a first-time offense is six months to one year in jail and/or a potential fine of up to $1,000. It’s also possible that the judge will include substance abuse counseling and community service into the sentence.
In the right circumstances, a boating under the influence charge can become a felony offense. This usually happens if your actions resulted in someone getting hurt or if you caused a boating accident that created substantial property damage. If convicted of felony boating under the influence in California, your sentence could include 16 months to three years in jail.
Making sure that a designated captain who agrees not to drink is the only one who pilots the boat is the easiest way to avoid the inconvenience of a boating under the influence charge in California. Your boating adventures should be handled the same way you handle nights out with friends.