Great Lakes Coast Guard continues efforts to enforce boating-under-the-influence laws

9th Coast Guard District News
CLEVELAND — Coast Guard law enforcement teams are continuing their efforts to enforce boating-under-the-influence laws in the Great Lakes region.

So far in 2013, Coast Guard law enforcement officers have issued more than 50 BUI citations across the Great Lakes.

Alcohol continues to be a leading contributing factor in recreational boating accidents, injuries and deaths.  According to the Coast Guard’s Recreational Boating Statistics 2012 report, the most current validated statistics available, alcohol use was determined to be the leading factor in nearly 17% of the recreational boating deaths in 2012.

“Keeping the waterways safe for everyone is a top Coast Guard priority, which is why we enforce boating under the influence laws so rigorously,” said Rear. Adm. Fred Midgette, commander of the Coast Guard 9th District. “BUI puts everyone on the water in danger, not just the person who is irresponsibly drinking.”

“Not only is boating under the influence just as illegal as driving under the influence, it’s just as dangerous,” said Cmdr. David Beck, chief of the Coast Guard 9th District Enforcement Branch. “The environmental influences of the sun, vibration, waves, and dehydration can magnify the effects of consuming alcohol on the water. If you plan to consume alcohol, plan ahead and have a sober operator return you home safely.”

Through July 4th BUI citations
2012 44
2011 32
2010 34

BUI laws are enforced at the state and federal level.  Penalties for BUI conviction by the state are governed by the applicable state BUI laws.

Federal law, 46 USC 2302(c), states that an individual who operates a vessel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is in violation of the law. A class A misdemeanor subjects a violator to confinement of less than one year and no less than six months.

The Coast Guard on the Great Lakes typically enforces 46 USC 2302(c) through a civil penalty and criminal misdemeanor ticket program.  The civil penalty program is an administrative enforcement option, whereas the criminal misdemeanor ticket program involves appearing and answering in federal district court.

Consequences of BUI conviction vary based on the enforcing jurisdiction, enforcement option exercised, and specific facts of each case. Civil penalties can be as high as $5,000, and a federal ticket may result in a Class A misdemeaner. Collateral consequences of BUI conviction could include increased insurance premiums, and for licensed mariners, revocation and/or suspension of merchant mariner credentials.

A boat operator with a blood alcohol content above the legal limit, .08 percent (0.1 percent in Michigan waters), runs a significantly increased risk of being involved in a boating accident.  Boaters operating under the influence are not the only ones at grave risk they also endanger all waterway users — passengers who are under the influence can drown while swimming from anchored or adrift vessels.

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