BOATING UNDER THE INFLUENCE – WHAT IS THE LAW?

 

In a recent Badger Blog post, we discussed the Arizona laws and rules about boating. We specifically focused on the ones most directly about safety. This post focuses in more detail on one of those laws – boating while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The law here is virtually identical to the laws about driving under the influence (DUI). In the case of boating, the relevant term is “OUI” – operating or being in actual physical control of a motorized watercraft while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs.

ARIZONA LAW

Under Arizona law, there are several ways that a person can be OUI. First, a person is guilty of OUI if he or she is “impaired to the slightest degree” while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. A law enforcement officer will typically attempt to determine impairment by administering field sobriety tests. Remember that “impaired to the slightest degree” is a very low standard. There is obviously some subjectivity involved in the determination of the degree of impairment.

Second, a person is OUI if he or she “has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more within two hours of operating or being in actual physical control of the motorized watercraft and. The alcohol concentration results from alcohol consumed either before or while operating or being in actual physical control of the motorized watercraft.”

Third, a person is OUI if there is “any” of a host of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, oxycodone, heroin, etc., “in the person’s body.”

Finally, a person is OUI if the vessel is a “commercial” motorized watercraft and the person has an alcohol concentration of 0,04 or more.

 PENALTIES

Penalties for OUI are severe in Arizona. The law provides that OUI is a class 1 misdemeanor, and that the penalty for violation is “not less than ten consecutive days in jail.” This sentence may be suspended if the guilty person completes a court ordered alcohol or other drug screening, education or treatment program. If the court determines that the person “recklessly endangered another person with a substantial risk of physical injury” then the court may suspend all but twenty-four consecutive hours of the sentence if the person completes such a program. In addition, a person convicted of OUI will be required to pay fines and assessments, which may total thousands of dollars. The court may also order community restitution. This is all for a first offence of OUI.

If a person commits a second offense of OUI within seven years of the date of the first offense, then the prescribed sentence is ninety days in jail, with at least 30 days served consecutively. The court may suspend all but 30 days of the sentence if the person completes a court ordered alcohol or other drug screening, education or treatment program. This suspended sentence does not apply if the court finds that the person recklessly endangered another person with substantial risk of physical injury. The person will also be ordered to perform at least 30 hours of community restitution. Again, the person will be required to pay fines and assessments.

Arizona law also prohibits  “extreme” OUI, which is OUI with a blood alcohol level of 0.15 or higher. For an extreme OUI the prescribed sentence and other penalties are substantially increased. For example, 30 days in jail, all but ten of which may be suspended if the person completes a court ordered program as discussed above, fines and increased assessments.

A person commits “aggravated” OUI if: 1)  he or she is OUI or extreme OUI while a person under the age of 15 is on board the watercraft; or 2) the offense is the third or subsequent OUI or extreme OUI in a seven-year period. The mandatory jail sentences are substantially increased, and there is no provision for a suspended sentence as discussed above for OUI and extreme OUI. Of course, there are substantial additional fines and assessments.

OUI is serious business. If you or someone you know gets charges with OUI, you want a good aggressive lawyer on your side to fight for you and to guide you through the criminal justice system. Law Badgers has the experience and the fighting spirit you need. Call 833.383.4448 (833 DTF IGHT).

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