Michigan Boating While Visibly Impaired

The Marine Safety section of Michigan’s Environmental Protection Act makes it a crime to operate a boat while visibility impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. For this reason, it is very important to contact a Michigan DUI attorney. The consequences for boating while intoxicated (sometimes referred to as boating under the influence or BUI) are very similar to those for operating while intoxicated (OWI). The main difference is that a charge of boating while intoxicated will only affect your boating license—in other words, it will not impact your ability to drive a motor vehicle.

Under this act, a boat, or “vessel,” is considered any type of water craft that can be used for transportation while “operation” means that a person is in control of the vessel while it’s underway.

The legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit for operating a motor vehicle intoxicated is .08 for drivers over 21; however, the legal BAC limit for boating under the influence is .1. There is no Zero Tolerance law for boating while having a controlled substance in your system, which means that you cannot be charged for boating while intoxicated if you have taken prescription medication. Underage drivers are also not subject to a Zero Tolerance law, which means that a person under 21 will be held to the same standards as an adult.

A boating while visibly impaired charge is different than a boating while intoxicated charge—instead of showing that your BAC was over the legal limit, the prosecution only has to prove that your ability to operate the water craft was visibly impaired due to the consumption of alcohol.

A skilled Michigan defense lawyer can look at the claims of boating while visibility impaired to determine if the evidence is accurate. Because the “proof” is based on observations by law enforcement, a lawyer may be able to challenge these subjective claims.

Elements of BWI

The elements of a BWI charge are almost identical to those of an OWI or operating while intoxicated charge. They include:

  • Operating a motorboat while your ability to safely do so is visibly impaired due to alcohol or controlled substance consumption
  • Operating a motorboat while having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or more
  • Operating a motorboat while having any amount of a Schedule 1 controlled substance in your system

Potential BWI Penalties

The penalties for first-offense BWI conviction closely resemble those associated with OWI. They include:

  • A jail sentence of up to 93 days
  • A fine of up to $500
  • Up to 360 hours of community service
  • Mandatory completion of an alcohol or drug education course

These penalties will increase for second and subsequent BWI convictions.

Felony BWI Charges

Causing a death while operating a boat under the influence of alcohol may result in a homicide charge. Michigan also classifies causing serious injury as a felony offense. If you are convicted of a felony homicide or serious injury charge, you could face prison time in addition to large fines. A third boating while intoxicated offense is also classified as a felony.

How an Attorney Can Help

The strategies used to fight a Michigan boating while visibly impaired offense are similar to those used for an operating while intoxicated charge. For this reason, you should fight your charges rather than plead guilty. The Michigan DUI attorneys at the Barone Defense Firm has experience with this type of law and will prepare a defense in order to reduce your chances of a conviction.