Boating Alcohol Laws in Michigan: What You Need to Know
May 21, 2019
Whether it’s a relaxing sunset ride or a day-long excursion, boaters enjoy unwinding on Michigan’s 3,000 miles of Great Lakes coastline or its many inland lakes. However, many people don’t realize that drinking and boating can be just as deadly as drinking and driving. Alcohol-related accidents are the leading cause of boating fatalities, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Furthermore, operating a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a violation of Michigan’s boating alcohol laws.
What Does Michigan Law Say About Drinking and Boating?
Here is a summary of the current boating alcohol laws:
- It is illegal to operate a boat with a BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) of .08 or higher. This is the same legal standard that applies to motor vehicle drivers. Law enforcement will typically administer a breath, blood or urine test to determine whether someone is legally impaired.
- There is a zero-tolerance policy for boat operators under the age of 21. If these boaters are found with any amount of alcohol in their system, they can be charged with a misdemeanor. The charges can be more serious if they are involved in an accident where someone is injured.
- It is illegal for boat operators of any age to have any amount of a schedule 1 controlled substance in their system. These are drugs with high abuse potential, no medical use and serious safety concerns. Examples are heroin, cocaine, LSD, MDMA (ecstasy) and psilocybin.
- Boat drivers who refuse to take a sobriety test after being stopped by law enforcement will be banned from operating a boat for one year.
- Drivers who operate a boat while intoxicated with a passenger 16 years old or younger on board will be subject to a misdemeanor violation.
- Boat owners may not allow another person who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol to operate their boat.
What Are the Penalties for Operating a Boat Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol?
Here are some of the legal consequences boat operators may face if they violate Michigan boating alcohol laws:
- Boat operators who are found to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol can be charged with a misdemeanor.
- Boaters who are convicted three times within 10 years will be charged with a felony.
- Boat operators who cause serious bodily injury to another person while under the influence are guilty of a felony. They can face up to five years imprisonment, a fine of up to $5,000.00 (but no less than $1,000), or both.
- Boat operators who cause the death of another person while under the influence will be convicted of a felony. The punishment includes up to 15 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000 (but no less $2,500.00), or both.
- Anyone who operates a motorboat on Michigan waters has automatically consented to be tested for alcohol or drugs at the request of law enforcement if arrested.
- Authorized law enforcement officials may stop and board a boat if they suspect a law is being violated.
Why Passengers Should Limit Alcohol Intake
While passengers on a boat are legally allowed to drink, excessive alcohol consumption can be dangerous. First, drunk passengers who are loud or disorderly can distract the boat driver and cause an accident. In addition, everyone on the boat should be able to react quickly and responsibly in case of an emergency.
Michigan boating laws are complicated, but finding the right lawyer is simple.
Call 1-800-CALL-SAM today for a free no-obligation consultation.