Can You Be Arrested for Driving a Boat While Intoxicated?

If you are pulled over by a police officer while operating a boat and you are found to be intoxicated, then yes - you may be arrested and charged with Boating Under the Influence (BUI). Like a Driving Under the Influence (DUI), this is a very serious charge that carries a heavy fine and even jail time if you are found to be a repeat offender.

According to the Revised Code of Washington (RCW):

RCW 79A.60.040

Operation of vessel in a reckless manner — Operation of a vessel under the influence of intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or any drug — Consent to breath or blood test — Penalty.

(1) It is unlawful for any person to operate a vessel in a reckless manner.

(2) It is unlawful for a person to operate a vessel while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or any drug. A person is considered to be under the influence of intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or any drug if, within two hours of operating a vessel:

(a) The person has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher as shown by analysis of the person's breath or blood made under RCW 46.61.506; or
(b) The person has a THC concentration of 5.00 or higher as shown by analysis of the person's blood made under RCW 46.61.506; or
(c) The person is under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or any drug; or
(d) The person is under the combined influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor, marijuana, and any drug.

(3) The fact that any person charged with a violation of this section is or has been entitled to use such drug under the laws of this state shall not constitute a defense against any charge of violating this section.

(4) Any person who operates a vessel within this state is deemed to have given consent, subject to the provisions of RCW 46.61.506, to a test or tests of the person's breath or blood for the purpose of determining the alcohol concentration, THC concentration, or presence of any drug in the person's breath or blood if arrested for any offense where, at the time of the arrest, the arresting officer has reasonable grounds to believe the person was operating a vessel while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or any drug. Neither consent nor this section precludes a police officer from obtaining a search warrant for a person's breath or blood. An arresting officer may administer field sobriety tests when circumstances permit.

(5) The test or tests of breath must be administered pursuant to RCW 46.20.308. Where the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person is under the influence of a drug, or where the person is incapable due to physical injury, physical incapacity, or other physical limitation, of providing a breath sample, or where the person is being treated in a hospital, clinic, doctor's office, emergency medical vehicle, ambulance, or other similar facility, a blood test must be administered by a qualified person as provided in RCW 46.61.506 (5). The officer shall warn the person that if the person refuses to take the test, the person will be issued a class 1 civil infraction under RCW 7.80.120.

(6) A violation of subsection (1) of this section is a misdemeanor. A violation of subsection (2) of this section is a gross misdemeanor. In addition to the statutory penalties imposed, the court may order the defendant to pay restitution for any damages or injuries resulting from the offense.

Chris Davis
Top-rated, award-winning, attorney practicing wrongful death & serious injury law in Seattle.