Written by attorney Max N Hanson

Consequences of Drinking While Boating or on the Water in Arizona

Many people are aware of the “"You drink, You drive, You lose"" mentality in Arizona when it comes to DUIs. Television ads and billboards inundate Arizona residents with the message of dangers of drinking and driving. Arizona has some of the toughest DUI laws in the Nation.

However, considerably less people understand that the same ramifications and penalties for DUIs also apply in large part to drinking and operating a boat, jetski or other watercraft on the lakes, rivers and waterways in our great state. In other words, if you are caught driving any type of watercraft while intoxicated (“OUI") you can expect the same harsh penalties as you would for a DUI. This includes extensive fines, penalties, possible jail time and possible suspension of your driving privileges.

In a state where people love their time out on the lake or river during the hot summer months, this is not to be taken lightly.

Most county sheriff’s departments have their own specialized divisions to patrol these waterways, but you should also know that the wardens with the Arizona Game and Fish Department are also licensed Arizona peace officers and have the same abilities to cite, arrest, and investigate criminal actions just as other law enforcement officers.

Depending on the remoteness of the location, if you complete field sobriety tests as well as breath or blood testing, you may be required to demonstrate your balance and coordination skills on a rolling boat. You can imagine there might be some problems with this procedure or even with scientific testing of breath or blood for the presence of alcohol or drugs in often rural, remote locations –– problems that a skilled OUI attorney would be able to spot and use to help you in defending your case.

As summer approaches and people start heading out to Arizona waterways, local authorities step up their patrols. If you are found to have a blood alcohol content ("BAC") of .08 or more, you will likely be arrested for an OUI. The higher your BAC, the more extreme the penalties. Even a misdemeanor DUI (.08 to .15) carries mandatory jail time, and expensive fines. A super-extreme OUI (.20 or higher) carries a minimum of 45 days in jail and fines of $5,000 or more.

If you are arrested for an OUI, you need to hire an experienced, aggressive DUI/OUI attorney to help you immediately. You also need to know your rights -- you have the right to remain silent, to refuse to perform any field sobriety tests, and the right to speak with an attorney before you answer any questions. You can refuse to submit to a breath/blood/urine test but doing so will result in automatic suspension of your driving privileges. You can ask to speak to an attorney prior to submitting to breath/blood/urine tests, but only if this will not cause undue delay (for example, if you get stopped at 10PM on a Saturday night and cannot reach an attorney until the following Monday). The arresting officer can also obtain a subpoena which requires you to submit to a breath/blood/urine test.

Make this summer a safe and happy one for you, your family and friends and don't drink and operate a watercraft. The penalties you may face can be devastating. If you plan to spend time on the lake and want to enjoy a few drinks, then give someone else the keys. Drinking while boating can have the same dangerous consequences as drunk driving. Keep yourself -- and everyone else on the lake -- safe. But if you find yourself on the wrong side of the law this boating season, contact an experienced DUI/OUI immediately to help protect your rights.

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