The numbers are out: 34 people were cited for boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol (BUI) during the Seafair events on Lake Washington this weekend. This shows a drop of more than 40 percent from last year’s Seafair BUI total, which was 61.
Matching the decrease, however, was the fact that Seafair’s ticket sales also decreased dramatically. Seafair officials said that since it’s an open festival, exact numbers weren’t available, but ticket sales at the log boom were down 20 percent.
Police contacted 473 boats, down 32 percent from last year’s event, and doled out 42 citations for speeding or unsafe lane changes, among other infractions. Medical assistance was called for four boaters. Of those contacted, 15 refused breath tests. Nowadays, refusing a breath test carries a fine of $2,050.
Of the 34 people charged with BUIs, four were booked and taken to jail. Others were pulled over and told to have someone come pick them up. Four search warrants were served for blood samples and one for search of a vessel resulted in a drug arrest.
RCW 79A.60.040 is Washington’s Boating Under the Influence Statute. In short, It prevents people from operating a boat while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug. A person is considered to be under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug if the person has 0.08 grams or more of alcohol. This can be proven by breath tests of a blood test. Drugs and/or the combination of drugs and alcohol may also constitute Boating Under the Influence.
Unlike DUI, Boating Under the Influence is a simple misdemeanor. It isn’t viewed as seriously as DUI, and carries less punishment as far as court fines and jail time is concerned. Still, the court may still order the defendant to pay restitution for any damages or injuries resulting from the offense. Additionally, a BUI charge/conviction can negatively impact a Skipper’s license to operate their vessel.
And it only gets worse. If someone is seriously injuried at the hands of an intoxicated boat operator, that operator can be charged under RCW 79A.60.60, a Class B felony. And if someone dies as a result as a proximate cause of the operation of any vessel by an intoxicated person, that person will be charged with a Class A felony under RCW 79A.60.50. Finally, any operator of a boat who willfully fails to stop when requested or signaled to do so by a law enforcement officer is guilty of a gross misdemeanor under RCW 79A.60.080.
Hire an attorney if you find yourself charged with any of the above-referenced water related crimes. You’ll need all the help you can get. Nowadays, consuming two beers while enjoying your vessel can easily get you in trouble.