Drunken Boating in Virginia – James River Vessel Operator is Charged with BUI
Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol can be just as dangerous as being behind the wheel of a car. Drunken boating in Virginia also carries a stiff sentence.
On Saturday morning, 10 people were rescued from the James River after a vessel capsized. The operator was later charged with Boating under the Influence (BUI).
WAVY.com reported Newport News Fire Department, the U.S. Coast Guard, and Virginia Marine Police helped rescue the people in the water after their vessel capsized near the James River Bridge, early Saturday morning.
The capsizing was reported at 5 a.m. north of the Pagan River off Morgarts Beach Road in Isle of Wight County.
A crew from Coast Guard Station Portsmouth launched to respond to the emergency. The crew rescued two people from the water while the Newport News Fire Department rescued the other eight. They were taken to Aberdeen pier.
According to the media, two of the people on board the boat were taken to a local hospital for treatment of scrapes. An officer of the Virginia Marine Police later charged the vessel operator with boating under the influence. The cause of the accident is under investigation.
What is Virginia’s Boating Under the Influence Law?
Under Virginia law, it is an offense to be boating under the influence (BUI). It is unlawful to operate any sailboat, power operated boat or personal watercraft or to manipulate any water skis, sailboard, or a similar device while impaired due to alcohol or any combination of alcohol and a controlled substance such as narcotics. Alcohol and drugs lead to impaired balance, bad coordination, compromised judgment, and slower reaction times on the water. Alcohol is a major cause of boating accidents and deaths in Virginia.
The blood/alcohol concentration at which it is unlawful to operate a boat is 0.08 BAC which is the same level as driving a car under Virginia law.
Virginia law states that a person is considered to be “under the influence” when :
- He or she is 21 years of age or older and is found to have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or higher, or is under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs to an extent that impairs his or her ability to operate the boat safely.
- He or she is under 21 years of age and has any measurable blood alcohol concentration (0.02 percent or more), or is found to be under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs to an extent which impairs his or her ability to operate the vessel safely.
What Is The Penalty for Drunken Boating in Virginia?
Most BUIs in Virginia are class 1 misdemeanors. These offenses carry up to 12 months in jail and $2,500 in fines. After a first-offense BUI, the offender faces a 12-month suspension of boating privileges. When the boater has at least one prior BUI conviction within the past decade, he or she faces a three-year suspension.
How Serious is Drunken Boating in Virginia?
Alcohol use is the leading factor in deadly boating accidents, states the U.S. Coast Guard. It was the main factor in 17 percent of the 651 deaths involving boats and watercraft in 2012.
In past years, many states turned a blind eye to drinking alcohol on the water. However, in recent years a crackdown has taken place. Most states use the 0.08 percent BAC test for boating while intoxicated charges.
Georgia recently raised its limit to 0.08 percent. North Carolina brought in a law that entails stiffer penalties for drunken boating.
In North Carolina, boaters are now subject to stiffer penalties if that are caught drinking and boating. Sheyenne’s Law made impaired boating that causes serious injury or death a felony.
The law was named after Sheyenne Marshall, a 17-year-old who died after being struck by a boat while knee-boarding in Lake Norman in 2015.
When Marshall was killed on the lake, impaired boating was only a misdemeanor. Under HB958, Sheyenne’s Law raised the penalty for impaired boating to a felony. The class of felony depends on the specifics of the actual case and the record of the accused boater.
Virginia and North Carolina have many waterways, rivers, and lakes. Every year many people take to the water in Virginia Beach, Hampton, Portsmouth, Newport News, and other cities with waterways. While nothing beats having a good time on the water, you should never drink alcohol if you are operating a boat.
If you have been injured due to an intoxicated boater or another party who is acting irresponsibly on the water, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit. Please contact our Virginia Beach boating injury lawyers today for a free consultation at (757) 455-0077.