Drunken Boating Rules Tightened in Virginia (VA)

Drunken boaters are facing a crackdown in Virginia (VA) under a tightening up of state law that will see them treated in the same manner by the law as drunken drivers.From July 1, law enforcement agencies will be able to arrest a person for boating under the influence of alcohol without first obtaining a warrant, Statehouse News Online has reported.

Language has been brought back into state legislation, sponsored by Delegate Bill Cleaveland, R-Roanoke.

"Officers have three hours, according to the code, from the time of the offense to arrest someone without a warrant as long as the arresting officer has probable cause. It's now standard operating procedure for any motorized vehicle - on land or water. Probable cause, for example, can be as simple as an officer smelling alcohol on the operator of the vehicle," the website reported.

According to the Department of Game and Fisheries, to be found under the influence of alcohol, the boater's blood alcohol content must be .08. This is the same as on land.  Those convicted of operating a boat under the influence can face up to one year in jail, a $2,500 fine, compulsory enrollment in the Alcohol Safety Action Program and removal of watercraft operation privileges for 12 months.

Our VA personal injury attorneys welcome any measures to improve safety on the waterways after a few weeks that have seen numerous incidents in and around Hampton Roads. All too often intoxicated boating can have serious consequences. In 2008, we reported on a drunken boating accident that killed a man on the Elizabeth River in Chesapeake, VA. Not only did the intoxicated boater lose his friend, but he was sentenced to a year in jail for involuntary manslaughter.

Boaters often operate under the misconception that the rules on alcohol and driving on the roads, don't apply to the water. In fact, it's illegal to operate any vessel, sailboat, or personal watercraft such as jet skis or sailboard, or similar device while intoxicated due to alcohol or drugs. Alcohol and drugs affect balance and can cause poor coordination and blurred vision.

As boating accident injury attorneys based in Hampton Roads we have dealt with many cases in which drunken boating has had tragic and unforeseen consequences.


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