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Intoxicated Boating in West Virginia

Operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol is forbidden in West Virginia, just like driving a car while intoxicated. It is vital for boaters to have a designated driver to ensure safety. A knowledgeable Wheeling WV DUI lawyer would emphasize the importance of this precautionary measure before embarking on a boating adventure.

Intoxicated boating is covered by Chapter 1547.11 of the West Virginia Code. According to this statute, individuals are prohibited from operating or controlling watercraft, including boats, aquaplanes, water skis, and similar watercraft, if their Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) exceeds 0.08 percent or if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

For individuals under the age of 21, the permissible BAC limit drops to 0.02 percent.

Drugs classified as abuse-inducing substances are described as medications that can impair reflexes or judgment. These substances encompass dangerous drugs, prescription drugs, over-the-counter (OTC) medications, and controlled substances.

Dangerous drugs, such as meth, LSD, cocaine, marijuana, and heroin, fall under this category. They also include prescription drugs and opioid painkillers.

OTC medicines that can affect reflexes or judgment include allergy medications, cough and cold medicines, as well as sleep aids. It’s crucial to remember that alcohol can intensify the effects of OTC medicines. Consuming alcohol after taking antihistamines, for instance, can leave an individual too impaired to operate a boat.

When Can My Boat Be Stopped?

There are differences in the rules governing boat stops compared to car stops. While reasonable suspicion is required for a car stop, the Coast Guard has the authority to stop a boat without any suspicion or warrant. They can conduct safety equipment inspections and, if they observe signs of boater intoxication, assess the operator’s sobriety. Moreover, local police officers, county sheriffs, and state troopers are entitled to stop boaters suspected of safety violations or intoxicated operation.

Although passengers are not restricted in their alcohol consumption, the boat operator must remain completely sober at all times.

Definition of “Boat’s Operator”

Determining who is driving a car is straightforward, but identifying the person in control of a boat can be more challenging. Multiple individuals may take turns operating the vessel, or it may be left unattended while everyone takes a refreshing dip in the water. In such situations, the Coast Guard or other authorities will either designate the boat’s owner as the responsible party and conduct sobriety tests, or they will assess the sobriety of all individuals involved.

What Are the Penalties for Drunken Boating in West Virginia?

For a first offense of boating while intoxicated, the operator will face a fine ranging from $150 to $1,000 and a jail sentence lasting from 3 days to 6 months. A second offense incurs the same fine, but the jail time increases to 10 days to 6 months. A third offense can result in a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail term of 30 days to 1 year.

Similar to West Virginia’s implied consent law for drivers of cars and trucks, boat operators implicitly give consent to chemical testing when operating a vessel. Refusal to submit to testing will lead to a suspension of your boating privileges and registration for a period of 1 year.

It’s worth noting that West Virginia only requires boating licenses for commercial purposes, such as pleasure cruises or fishing. If you’re using a boat solely for recreational purposes, whether it’s your own or borrowed, you do not need a license, and therefore, it cannot be revoked.

Importantly, a boating while intoxicated conviction does not affect your driver’s license for your car or truck.

If you’re facing charges related to boating while intoxicated, consider securing the assistance of a Wheeling WV criminal attorney to ease your journey. The Mountaineer Criminal Law Group possesses extensive knowledge of DUI law, providing reliable guidance and support 24/7. Contact them at (304) 381-3656.

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