With the holiday weekend upon us, many people are about to flock to the
waters of Maine to enjoy the beautiful boating opportunities our lakes,
rivers and ocean provide. But as you celebrate this Fourth of July remember
that, just like driving a car, it is illegal to operate a boat under the
influence of drugs or alcohol.
Maine has a very broad definitions of what it means to operate a boat or
watercraft. A watercraft is defined as “any type of vessel, boat,
canoe or craft capable of being used as a means of transportation on water.”
This definition includes a canoe, a sailboat, a large yacht and everything
in between. If it floats then you shouldn’t be operating it under
the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Maine’s law uses .08 grams or more of alcohol per 100 milliliters
of blood, or 210 liters of breath as the legal limit for alcohol. This
is the same .08 standard that would apply in a motor vehicle. Although
a chemical test to determine blood alcohol content is the most commonly
used method to determine whether someone is under the influence, it is
not necessary for a conviction. Anyone under the influence, or impaired
by alcohol or drugs, whether prescription or illegal, is subject to prosecution
under Maine’s boating statutes.
It is a crime to operate a boat or watercraft under the influence. Maine
classifies it as a Class D misdemeanor. A person convicted of operating
a watercraft under the influence in Maine is subject to a fine of $400.00
for a first offense and 48 hours in jail if an aggravating factor is alleged
and proven. Aggravating factors include refusal to submit to an alcohol
breath test, an alcohol level test in excess of .15, causing an accident,
or a failure to stop upon the request of an officer. As with driving laws
the penalties increase with subsequent violations and a second offense
will land you in jail for 7 days.
Criminal penalties aside, the most important reason to make sure you are
not under the influence when you operate a boat is your safety and the
safety of others. In 2016, the US Coast Guard recorded 4,463 boating accident.
Of those accidents 701 involved a death and 2,903 involved injuries. Alcohol
use was the single leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.
Whether you are fishing from your canoe, or watching fireworks from your
yacht, please be safe and make sure the operator of your boat is sober.
If you find yourself facing a boating related charge call our experienced
attorney’s for a free consultation. Happy Fourth of July!