Boating Under the Influence: Laws and Penalties

Interviewer: Let’s talks about boating while intoxicating or boating under the influence. Are all the laws pretty much the same in that regard?

Matthew Nebeker: In my opinion, yes, it’s the same. In Utah, we have the DUIs. You can be found guilty of a DUI if you’re in actual physical control of any motor vehicle. It could be your riding lawnmower. If you drink a few beers while you’re riding around on your lawnmower and you cut down your neighbor’s flowers, they call the police on you. They come out and then you could get a DUI for that. The same goes for personal watercraft. Like I said, we have a lot of lakes around here. People would go out on their boats and be enjoying their day and having some drinks, and you could receive a DUI on that. We’re pretty agricultural around here. If a farmer is out there baling hay or picking up hay in his tractor, in his John Deere, and for some reason he has an incident, he could get a DUI.

Interviewer: It’s one of those things that I believe even now, with a boat especially, because back at the end of a different era, when I was younger, I go fishing with my dad and his friends. They’d be busting out the six-pack, and that’s like every hour on a boat in the middle of the sea or in the Gulf of Mexico, or in lakes, too. It wasn’t really a big deal back then per semi mean, how do they usually get caught? What are they looking at for? Is the boat swerving or is it a different kind of protocol or a different kind of sign that they notice? Or do they just stop them and say, “Hey, we see a bunch of cans over here”?

Matthew Nebeker: Well, a lot of it is they’ll see the person on some technical violation, like the boat won’t have updated registration on it. They’ll approach them to that. Or they’ll approach them for maybe some unsafe activity. Maybe they have kids riding up on the front of the boat and it’s not designed for that. Or they’ll see the boat drive too close to other boaters and want to warn them to keep a certain distance from other boaters, and then they’ll smell the odor of alcohol.

Even in some cases they’ll approach them to see if they have their safety equipment and to make sure that there are enough life vests for the people that are on the boats. If they see a young child without a life vest on, they could stop them, or they could be checking their fishing licenses while they’re out there. There are so many reasons that they can have contact with people in the water.

Another thing, Orlando, that’s big out here, because we have a lot of mountains, is the all-terrain vehicles. People will get on their four wheelers and ride the trails in our mountains and stuff. They’ll get caught for DUI on those things also.

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