New Drunk Driving Laws for Boaters
In December of last year, Governor Rick Snyder signed into law legislation that changed the drinking and boating laws in Michigan. But up until recently, no one has really experienced the effects of these new regulations. After all, how many people take their boats out for a relaxing day on the lake in January? None. So now that it’s finally summer, that legislation is really kicking in. So here are a few things that you should know about Michigan’s new drunk driving laws for boaters.
First, if you were planning on traveling up to the Great White North, also known as the land of the Canucks, (or Canada) then a DUI conviction may affect your plans. Canada has developed stricter immigration laws in recent years and anyone convicted of drunk driving – and that means in a car, a boat, or even a snowmobile – is deemed inadmissible, and denied entry into the country.
Second, there is boating, and then there is boating. And the alcohol consumption laws are not actually uniform across the board. For example, if you are out on the water in a canoe or a yacht, you may have a blood alcohol content of up to .08 before you get into any trouble with the law. But if you are in a motorboat, the law forbids you from having any amount of a controlled substance in your system.
While technically, the law specifies a “motorboat” as being different from other types of boats, it is actually a bit of a gray area. It could easily be argued by a prosecutor that any and every boat “propelled wholly or in part by machinery” is considered a motorboat. In that light, a jet ski, a bass boat, a powered catamaran and an inflatable boat with an outboard motor can all be considered “motorboats.”
Third, if you are arrested for operating a boat under the influence of alcohol, and you have an underaged passenger onboard the vessel, the consequences are often much more dire. Just like a drunk driver arrested behind the wheel of a car with a child in the backseat, an intoxicated boat driver will face additional charges. Child endangerment can result in up to year in jail for the first offense, and up to five years in prison for the second offense.
If, however, your boat is docked, feel free to party it up. As long as you stay in the dock with your boat while you are drinking, and don’t leave the slip, you are fine. The law states that a docked boat that is not operating on open water is not subject to the same regulations.
We hope you enjoy your summer, and if you are fortunate enough to enjoy some time out on the water with friends and family, that you will stay safe. However, should things get out of hand and you need some help, we are always here for you.