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Drinking While Boating: What’s Changed?

Aug 30 | 2019  by

Mark Mandell, Esq.

Labor Day is quickly approaching. Many people will be heading out on the water for possibly the final time this summer. In 2015, Michigan updated their boating while intoxicated laws. Are you aware of them?

Michigan has the same general rules and regulations for driving under the influence and boating under the influence, meaning your blood alcohol content (BAC) can’t be above 0.08%.There is also implied consent on the water, meaning when you get behind the wheel of a boat you are considered to have consented to a BAC test. Even if you don’t take a breathalyzer test, you can still be detained and taken back to shore if you appear to be disorientated, confused, smell of alcohol, or were driving recklessly.

These laws not only apply to boats, but any sort of watercraft that can be used for transportation, which include jet skis and kayaks. It is also considered to be unlawful for the owner of the watercraft to allow anyone else to operate their watercraft if they are aware that person may be under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

The penalties for a BUI depend on the offender’s offense history. A first conviction results in a misdemeanor with a maximum of 93 days in jail, 45 days of community service, a fine ranging from $100—$500, or any combination of those. The court can also suspend the offenders boating privilege for 1—2 years. A second offense within seven years will be a misdemeanor and carry $200—$1000 in fines. The offender will either be sentenced to 10—90 days community service and up to a year in jail or 48 hours to one year in jail and up to 90 days community service. A third conviction, at any point in your lifetime would result in being guilty of a felony. This will result in a punishment of 1—5 years in jail and/or $500—$5,000 in fines. If the offender has two or more priors within the last 10 years, the court will suspend their privilege to operate a motorboat indefinitely. The penalties are much harsher if the person is convicted of causing death or serious bodily injury.

If you are heading out on the water this weekend, be careful and drink responsibly.