Boating Under the Influence laws in Washington have just gotten much more strict. The Legislature changed BUI from a simple misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor (same as DUI). BUI now carries a maximum sentence of 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. Any person who is charged with BUI should contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible, to start working on your behalf.
At Parnell Defense, PLLC, in Kirkland and Lynnwood, I offer a free initial consultation where we can discuss your charges, options, and legal strategies.
Most boating under the influence (BUI) citations that I see occur on Lake Washington, south of the I-90 floating bridge and north of Bailey Peninsula. This area is classified as a No Wake Zone under 33 CFR 100.1301 (wake = seven miles per hour or more) and gives the police carte blanche to issue you an infraction, which then gives them the opportunity to investigate for BUI. If your vessel is boarded — remember, just like any DUI stop on the road, the field sobriety tests are voluntary. Don’t do them, not even the portable breath test.
Should I submit to a field sobriety test? If your vessel is boarded — remember, just like any DUI stop on the road, the field sobriety tests are voluntary. Don’t do them.
Based on this last argument as well as misinformation that is typically read to the boater by law enforcement, I will usually advise clients to refuse the breath test when they are placed under arrest for boating under the influence. While having to pay a monetary fine by the Coast Guard is a possible consequence for refusing the breath test, depriving the government of breath test evidence is usually far more helpful in a BUI defense case.