Boating While Intoxicated

August 17th, 2017 by Attorney Dan Carman

Lexington Criminal Defense Attorney

Boating in Kentucky is supposed to be about having fun and relaxing. Whether it’s to go water skiing, fishing or just enjoying a beautiful day on a pontoon boat, being on the water is supposed to be about getting away from it all. For some, part of boating may be drinking, and if you’re the one piloting a boat you could be arrested for boating while intoxicated (BWI) by conservation officers of the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

It’s against the law in Kentucky to operate a vessel, or manipulate water skis or similar devices, while intoxicated or under the influence of any substance that impairs a person’s ability to control their water device safely. Drinking alcohol or using drugs can impair your balance, blur vision, lessen your coordination, impair your judgment and lower your reaction times. Alcohol is a major contributor to boating accidents and fatalities.

Enforcement of Kentucky BWI law

The U.S. Coast Guard reports that for 2015 nationwide there were 4,158 recreational boating accidents causing 626 deaths, 2,613 injuries and approximately $42 million dollars of damage to property. The agency states that alcohol use is the top known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. In cases where the primary cause of a fatal accident was known, alcohol use was listed as the leading factor in 17% of deaths.

The state of Kentucky is not looking the other way when it comes to enforcing boating rules, including BWI. The Paducah Sun reports that last year in early July the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources recorded 165 citations being issued, 586 safety warnings given and 18 BWI arrests made. There were 46 boating accidents in Kentucky in 2016, causing eight deaths. From 2012 to 2016, there were 39 fatal boating accidents resulting in 50 fatalities. Alcohol use was the primary contributing factor in 11 of those deaths.

Under state boating law,

  • A person is intoxicated if his or her blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or more, the same as for a vehicle driver of legal drinking age.
  • It’s illegal to drink alcoholic beverages in public places, including the state’s waterways.
  • Like driving on the roads, by operating a vessel on Kentucky waters, under the law you have consented to tests for alcohol or drugs if they’re requested by a Fish and Wildlife conservation officer. If you refuse to be tested, you will be subject to arrest.

A BWI conviction will dramatically increase your boating insurance rates. Some carriers may cancel your boating and car insurance policies.

Consequences of a Kentucky BWI conviction

The penalties for breaking the state’s BWI laws include:

  • Those convicted of BWI or under the influence of a substance impairing boating ability are subject to a fine of $200 to $250 for the first conviction.
  • If convicted a second time, the fine would be from $350 to $500.
  • If convicted three or more times, the fine would be from $600 to $1,000, or imprisonment for at least 30 days, or both a fine and jail time.

Like a driving under the influence arrest, the situation may be more complicated than it appears, and there are at least two sides to every story. Mistakes while boating can be caused by any number of reasons, including heat, sun, noise, wind, glare, dehydration and the motion of a boat on the water for a long period of time.

Conservation officers must follow the law, rules and regulations, and if you’ve been arrest for BWI you need the help of an attorney who understands what they are supposed to do and hold them accountable when they don’t. Acting quickly and contacting an attorney are the best ways to protect your rights.

Being charged with BWI is a serious matter. If injuries or a fatality are caused in an accident where BWI is alleged, you could face several charges that pose a serious threat to your freedom and ability to support your family.

Whatever your situation, Lexington, KY, BWI attorney Dan Carman can help. He was a Judge Advocate “JAG” (defense lawyer and prosecuting attorney) for felony charges against Marine Corps and Navy personnel. This experience gives him insight into both the prosecution and defense sides of the legal process, which can be very helpful to those facing criminal offense charges. He knows how the Kentucky criminal justice system operates and will work closely with you every step of the way.

Based in Lexington, he represents clients throughout Kentucky who find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Let him work with you to plan the aggressive defense that you will need. Use the convenient online inquiry form or call (859) 838-1415 for a free initial consultation.