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Intoxicated Boating in Ohio

Just like you are not allowed to drive when you’re drunk, in Ohio, you can’t operate a boat when you’re drunk, either. A good Youngstown OVI lawyer will tell you to be sure to take along a designated driver when you hit the lake or river.

The Ohio Code discusses intoxicated boating in Chapter 1547.11. It says that no person is allowed to operate or be in control of watercraft (boat, aquaplane, water skis, or similar crafts and devices) if he or she has a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.08 percent or above, or if they are under the influence of a drug of abuse, alcohol, or a combination of the two.

If the person operating the watercraft is under the age of 21, that BAC content drops to 0.02 percent.

Drugs of abuse are defined in the law as any medication that can slow or otherwise impair a person’s reflexes or judgement. This includes dangerous drugs, OTC (over-the-counter) medicines, prescription drugs, and controlled substances.

Dangerous drugs are things like LSD, meth, heroine, marijuana, and cocaine. They are similar to controlled substances but include opioid painkillers and other prescription drugs.

Examples of OTC medicines that could slow your reflexes or judgement include allergy medicines, cold and cough medicine, and things that help you sleep. Always remember that alcohol can amplify the effects of OTC medicines. Drinking a couple of beers after you have taken an antihistamine can leave you too intoxicated to operate the boat.

When Can My Boat Be Stopped?

The rules for stopping a boat differ from the rules for stopping a car in that, while cops need reasonable suspicion to pull you over in your car, the Coast Guard is authorized to stop you at any time, suspicion or no suspicion, without needing a warrant. They can stop you to inspect your safety equipment and, if they see evidence that you have been drinking, check the operator to see if he’s drunk. Also, police officers from local cities, county sheriffs, and state troopers are allowed to stop you while you’re on the water if they suspect a safety violation or an intoxicated operator.

Passengers are allowed to get as drunk as they want, but the boat’s operator has to be completely sober at all times.

Definition of “Boat’s Operator”

While it’s easy to see who’s driving a car, it’s often not so with a boat. If more than one person knows how to run it, they might take turns. Or, they might stop in the middle of the lake or river and everyone jumps into the water to swim, leaving the vessel unmanned. In this case, the Coast Guard or other officers will either declare the boat owner the responsible one and test his sobriety, or they will test everyone’s.

What Are the Penalties for Drunken Boating in Ohio?

A first offense boating while intoxicated will get the drunken operator a fine of between $150 and $1,000 and a jail sentence of 3 days to 6 months. The fine for a second offense is the same, but the jail time is 10 days to 6 months. For a third offence, the operator faces a fine as high as $1,000 and 30 days to 1 year in jail.

Similar to Ohio’s implied consent law for car and truck drivers, boat operators also give consent to chemical testing, though they do it simply by operating the vessel. Refusal to submit means you will lose your ability to operate or register a watercraft for 1 year.

The only Ohio boating licenses are those issued for commercial use of the boat, such as pleasure cruises or fishing. If you are only using the boat for fun, be it your own boat or one you borrowed, you don’t have a license, and so it cannot be taken away.

It is important to remember that a boating while intoxicated conviction will not affect the driver’s license for your car or truck.

If you find yourself facing a boating while intoxicated charge, make your life easier by hiring an attorney to help you. Youngstown Criminal Law Group knows OVI law inside and out. They are available 24/7 to help you. (330) 992-3036.

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