As the weather warms up, people can take to the many rivers, lakes, and beaches throughout Southern California. And many of them will be doing so in a boat or other type of watercraft. Unfortunately, of these boaters, many will be under the influence.
California Assemblyman Marc Levine hopes to reduce the amount of alcohol-related boating accidents by expanding DUI tests to people who are operating a boat.
Specifically, the proposed legislation would allow law enforcement to obtain a search warrant to test the blood of a person suspected of operating a marine vessel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Levine’s proposed legislation, AB 539, expands on SB 717, which the governor signed into law in 2013. SB 717 allows law enforcement to obtain search warrants to test the blood of drivers that are suspected of driving under the influence when the driver refuses to submit to a chemical test.
“Boating under the influence is a serious public safety problem. California has some of the strictest DUI laws in the nation, but we need tough boating laws as well,” said Levine. “This bill will encourage responsible and safe boating by making sure that law enforcement has the authority to determine whether a boater is under the influence.”
According to Levine’s office, there were a total of 4,062 recreational boating accidents in 2013 that involved 560 deaths and 2,620 injuries.
“Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents,” a news release from the Levine states. “Where the primary cause was known, it was listed as the leading factor in 16% of deaths. Alcohol or drug use occurred in almost 11% of the accidents and 33% of the deaths involving operator error of a recreational boat.”
The penalties for boating under the influence (BUI), which I’ve written about before, are similar to those of a California DUI. A person is convicted of boating under the influence of California Harbors and Navigation Code 655 can face up to $1,000 in fines and fees, six months in jail, and a DUI program.