Coast Guard issuesl civil and criminal tickets for boating under influence of drugs or alcohol over Memorial Day weekend

9th Coast Guard District News
CLEVELAND — Following a Memorial Day weekend in which the Coast Guard and local law enforcement agencies in several waterways in the Great Lakes issued several boaters civil or criminal tickets for operating their vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the Coast Guard is reminding boaters Tuesday that boating doesn’t mix with drugs or alcohol.

According to the Coast Guard Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety’s Recreational Boating Statistics 2012, alcohol use was the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents last year. It was listed as the leading factor in 17% of deaths.

When the Coast Guard determines that an operator is impaired, the operator’s voyage may be terminated. The vessel may be brought to a mooring by the Coast Guard or turned over to a competent and un-intoxicated person aboard the vessel. Depending on the circumstances, the Coast Guard may arrest the operator, detain him until sober, or turn him over to state or local authorities.

The Coast Guard and every state have stringent penalties for boaters violating BUI laws. The federal statute can be found in Title 46, U.S. Code, Section 2302. Penalties can include large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges, and jail terms.

“When mariners boat under the influence, it puts all those around them at significant risk,” said Capt. Stephen Torpey, chief of response for the 9th District. “We want mariners to enjoy our nation’s waterways but to do it safely and responsibly. The Coast Guard will continue to work closely with federal, state and local partners to ensure the safety of those on the water.”

Alcohol affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination. These impairments increase the likelihood of accidents afloat — for both passengers and boat operators. Coast Guard data shows that in boating deaths involving alcohol use, more than half the victims either capsized their boat or fell overboard.

Alcohol is even more hazardous on the water than on land. The marine environment — motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray — accelerates a drinker’s impairment. These stressors cause fatigue that makes a boat operator’s coordination, judgment and reaction time decline even faster when using alcohol.

What follows is an account of the law enforcement cases the Coast Guard and local law enforcement agencies responded to this weekend:

At about 10:30 p.m. Saturday, four people aboard a 37-foot recreational vessel were stopped by a law enforcement team, from Coast Guard Station Calumet Harbor, located in Chicago, aboard a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium. The boaters refused to take breath analysis tests, so the Coast Guard towed the vessel to shore and moored it at the Coast Guard station. Local law enforcement officials took statements from the occupants of the vessel while the Coast Guard conducted field sobriety tests on the boat operator, which he failed. The boat operator was issued a Coast Guard-4100, which documents a boarding officer’s report, assesses civil penalty action, if appropriate, facilitates collection of any civil penalties assessed, and gives boat owners/operators written notice of boarding. Information is retained on file for three years and may be considered in the event of future violation(s), except some “warnings” will be considered for one year for civil penalty purposes.

Just after midnight Sunday morning, the same Coast Guard boatcrew terminated the voyage of a 36-foot recreational vessel with seven people aboard for BUI. The boat operator failed three of five afloat sobriety tests and all ashore tests, but the boat operator refused the breath analysis test. The vessel was escorted to the Burnham Harbor Pier, where it remained over night. All boat occupants were transported home via taxi.

At about 1 a.m. Sunday, two people aboard a 22-foot pleasure craft were boarded by a law enforcement team, from Coast Guard Station St. Clair Shores, Mich., aboard a 25-foot Response Boat-Small. During the boarding, the boat operator appeared intoxicated but refused to take a breath analysis test. However, the boarding officer administered three afloat field sobriety tests and the boat operator failed all three. Local authorities were notified and took the individual into custody at the Algonac Boat Ramp. The boarding officer issued a Coast Guard-4100 to the operator.

At 7:48 p.m. Sunday, a boarding team from Coast Guard Station Marblehead, Ohio, aboard a 33-foot Special Purpose Craft-Law Enforcement, stopped a 19-foot Bayliner with two people aboard. The boarding team administered six afloat FSTs, which the boat operator failed. The boat operator was then administered a breath analysis test and had an over the legal limit blood alcohol content of .087. The legal limit in Ohio is .08. The vessel was turned over to the other occupant but the voyage was terminated due to other safety violations. A Coast Guard-4100 was issued.

Early Monday morning a boatcrew from Station St. Clair Shores, aboard a 25-foot RB-S, conducted a boarding on a 27-foot pleasure craft with seven people onboard in the vicinity of Jefferson Beach Marina. The boat operator appeared intoxicated, so the boarding officer attempted to conduct FSTs and breath analysis tests but both were refused. The boatcrew escorted the boat to the pier, where they confiscated the keys. The boat operator slept on the boat overnight and was able to retrieve the keys from station personnel later that morning. The operator was issued a federal ticket.

Monday evening, the Coast Guard responded to the report of a capsized vessel in the vicinity of Kelleys Island, Ohio. Prior to the Coast Guard’s arrival on scene, good Samaritans had rescued four people from the water. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources investigated the accident, and the boat operator was charged with a BUI and reckless operation.

Law enforcement teams, from Coast Guard Station Marblehead aboard a 33-foot SPC-LE, and the ODNR also terminated two voyages in the vicinity of Sandusky Bay for having paraphernalia and possession of marijuana along with operating a boat under the influence. All four persons involved were cited.

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