Drunk Driving Laws for Boaters Just Got Tougher!

In the wake of the drunken boating accident this past summer, that claimed lives and put one man in prison for years, it comes as little surprise that Michigan legislators have chosen to change the state’s drunk driving laws concerning the operating of watercraft while intoxicated.

A package of bills was unanimously passed by the Michigan Senate which increase penalties for “BUI” or boating under the influence. Drunk drivers of boats and other recreational vehicles will now also contend with blood alcohol content requirements similar to those applied to drivers on the roads.

Under the new laws, the BAC has been lowered from 0.10% to 0.08%. But don’t mistake that for an increased capacity to drink – it means exactly the opposite! Where before a boat driver could actually consume a larger quantity of alcohol before they were over the legal limit, now the limit is the same across the board for all drivers.

Also changed under the new law is the fact that a driver under the age of 21 is now forbidden from operating a boat with any quantity of alcohol in their system at all. Essentially, this is a zero tolerance approach to underaged drinking and driving.

Additionally, the penalties for these charges have been changed to be less lenient, increasing the punishments for individuals convicted of operating a watercraft while intoxicated. For example, for repeat offenders, a third violation is now a felony, and there is also now a misdemeanor charge for persons driving drunk with a minor under the age of 16 on board.

Another aspect of the law changed by the new legislation is the penalties for people who refuse to take a BAC test when stopped by a member of the coast guard. The operating ban has been increased from six months to one year, meaning that refusing to submit to the test could result in losing your right to drive a boat for a full year, even if you weren’t above the legal limit at the time.

While many people may be upset by these changes, feeling that their rights have been infringed upon, the sad facts are that more than half of all boating accidents involve the use of alcohol, and the US Coast Guard has reported a distinct rise in boating accidents and fatalities in recent years.

Boating is a fun and relaxing activity.  Drinking responsibly is the way to go, because no one wants to end up behind bars instead of on the water.  Arrested? Hire the best defense attorney you can.  Call us 1 866-766-5245.

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