Drinking and a day on the water often go hand in hand. However, you may not know that the same rules apply to boating under the influence (BUI) as they do to driving under the influence. Rhode Island officials are going to start cracking down on boaters who decide to kick back a few drinks. Before this happens, you may want to educate yourself on the Rhode Island boating under the influence laws.

Rhode Island is Cracking Down on BUIs

In January state and local officials announced plans to increase patrols to curb intoxicated boating. There has been an increase in boating accidents nationwide, and authorities intend to reduce the potential damage drinking and boating may inflict. The recent death of Miami Marlin’s star pitcher, Jose Fernandez, has thrust boating under the influence into the national spotlight. Fernandez who was 24 when he died in a boating accident, was under the influence at the time of the accident. The crash left himself and two friends dead. Because of the national attention, police agencies nationwide are attempting to crack down on BUIs, and Rhode Island is no different.

Rhode Island usually participates in the nationwide “Operation Dry Water” patrols once a year. However, this year the plan is to step up enforcement all summer long. Increases in boating patrols and more officers on the water are all part of the new enforcement plan.

State officials aim to not only prosecute offenders but to educate all the people on the water. Many people just don’t know the boating laws, and this leads to increases in poor decision making.

Boating Under the Influence Statistics

In 2014, the most recent year statistics are available for, nationwide, there wee 4,064 crashes and 610 deaths involving recreational boaters. In Rhode Island, there were 40 crashes and three deaths in 2014. While you may not think that is a staggering number, government agencies consider these types of deaths preventable. They are aiming to eliminate them all through prosecuting those people who drink while boating.

One issue is that recreational boating is dangerous without alcohol or drugs. Many boaters don’t know all of the maritime laws and guidelines. This can make conditions on the water safe for weekend warriors as well as those who make their livelihood on the water.

The U.S. Coast Guard says that the primary contributing factor to boating fatalities is alcohol. Alcohol can impair a boater’s judgment, vision, reaction time, and balance. Many of these impairments can are exacerbated by the fact that you are on the ocean. Sun, noise, vibration, and motion increase the possibility of impairment. Because many people aren’t used to being on the water, the conditions increase the risk of an accident.

Rhode Island BUI Laws

So what are the boating under the influence laws? The BUI laws in Rhode Island are mostly the same as the DUI laws. The legal limit for operating a boat is .08% BAC. There are also provisions to the law governing operating a boat under the influence of other drugs. Cases involving drug impairment may be harder to prove than cases involving alcohol because of the difficulty of measuring the effects that drugs have on the body.

Now let’s take a look at the penalties for boating under the influence. Keep in mind that these penalties may change when there are accidents or deaths as a result of a BUI.

First Offense BUI

If you have no prior BUI convictions in the past five years, the police consider this a first offense. The penalties for a first offense include:

  • For those with a BAC between .08% and .1%, you will receive civil charges. The penalties include up to a $750 fine and a 45-day suspension of boating privileges. The judge can assign, at their discretion, a boating safety course.
  • A misdemeanor charge will result from a BAC between .1% and .15%. The penalties include up to 1-year in jail or 60 days of community service, a three to six-moth boating suspension, as well ass up to an $800 fine and a boating safety/substance abuse course.
  • For a BAC over 1.5% the same jail and community service sentences apply. The maximum fine amount in such cases is $1,000. You will also face a three to six-moth boating suspension and boating safety/substance abuse education classes.

Second Offense BUI

If you have a previous conviction in the last five years, another offense will be considered your second. The penalties are:

  • If you’re BAC is between .08% and .15% than the charge is still a misdemeanor. The penalties are up to 1-year in jail, $900 in fines, a one to a two-year suspension of boating privileges, and substance abuse treatment.
  • The charge for the second offense above a .15% BAC is also a misdemeanor. The penalties are up to one year in jail, $1,500 in fines, a two-year suspension of boating privileges, and substance abuse treatment.

Third Offense BUI

A third offense will result in felony charges. The penalties for a third offense include one to five years of jail time, up to a $5,500 fine, two to five-year boating suspension, and mandatory substance abuse treatment.

If you have been charged with a BUI in Rhode Island, find an experienced attorney that can help you determine the best defense in your case.