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!