Each summer brings a new set of Boating While Intoxicated cases to my office. While most of my cases are in St. Charles County, I also have clients who boat at the Lake of the Ozarks.
The Water Patrol is becoming more vigilant in enforcing the law when it comes to boating while intoxicated. Patrols are increased and it seems that they are willing to stop more boats than they have in the past, just to check on the driver of the boat. That is why you need a good attorney on your side.
Just as it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, the same thing applies to boats. Boating while intoxicated can have some serious consequences, although they do not affect your drivers license.
In Missouri, if you are found boating with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or greater, you could face boating while intoxicated (BWI) charges. This also includes all actions of operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, any other type of drugs or any combination of the three.
So if you are out on the water and are taking medication that affects your ability to operate the boat, you could be charged with boating while intoxicated. That is not much different than operating a motor vehicle.
You should know that boats that have only paddles, and canoes are not included in the laws as they apply to boating while intoxicated. I guess that means you can be drunk as a skunk and paddle your boat anywhere you want to. But if it has a motor on it, watch out!
If the Water Patrol suspects you are intoxicated they are going to ask you to take some tests. Think about it. If they are asking you to take some tests, don’t they already suspect you? Remember, you don’t have a license to operate that boat. So what are they going to do if you don’t take the tests? They have to decide whether they think you are intoxicated based on their observations up to that point. If it were me, I would not submit to any tests. But they still have the right to ask you to take the tests to determine whether you are boating while intoxicated.
Let me stop here and stress that this is not to be considered legal advice. You, and only you, can decide whether or not to take the tests. I am not telling you what to do here. I am only telling you what I would do. Your choice should be made only by you.
If convicted of a boating while intoxicated, you may face some of the same penalties you would face if convicted of a DWI. Having an experienced criminal attorney is important.
I have recently successfully handled some boating while intoxicated cases that were based on really flimsy evidence. The Water Patrol seems to jump to the conclusion that a boater is intoxicated rather quickly.
If convicted of a first offense of boating while intoxicated, you will be guilty of a Class B misdemeanor, which could mean up to 6 months in jail as well as up to a $500 fine. A second conviction would make you guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, which comes with a fine of up to $1000 and up to a year in jail.
A third or subsequent conviction would be a Class D felony, which carries up to four years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine.
If you are convicted of boating while intoxicated in Missouri, you must also pay for and complete a boater safety education program.
Here is another obscure law you may not know about.
This is section 306.109. of the Missouri Revised Statutes 1. No person shall possess or use beer bongs or other drinking devices used to consume similar amounts of alcohol on the rivers of this state. As used in this section, the term “beer bong” includes any device that is intended and designed for the rapid consumption or intake of an alcoholic beverage, including but not limited to funnels, tubes, hoses, and modified containers with additional vents.
2. No person shall possess or use any large volume alcohol containers that hold more than four gallons of an alcoholic beverage on the rivers of this state.
As always, when you are being questioned about a potential law violation the less you say, the better off you are. You have no obligation to tell the officer if you have been drinking, or how much. Just politely tell them that you do not want to talk and give them my name.
Have a safe summer and keep in mind…
If you get charged with boating while intoxicated call me on my cell phone at 314-708-1000. I’ll give you a free initial consultation. We can discuss your case and decide how we are going to get the right result for you.