The State Parks Commission, along with its Boating Safety Council, NW Marine Trade Association, Recreational Boating Association of WA, and Seattle Children’s, and other boating leaders have worked to amend the law to make boating safer in Washington. The change is intended to deter people operating a boat while under the influence (BUI) by increasing the penalty and making Breathalyzer tests mandatory (in cases where an officer has probable cause). Here’s what boaters need to know about changes effective July 28:
• A BUI conviction will become a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and/or 364 days in jail.
• Officers with probable cause can ask the boat operator to submit to a Breathalyzer test. If the operator refuses to take the test, he/she will be issued a Class 1 Civil Infraction.
• The maximum penalty for refusal to take a Breathalyzer test will be $1,000; however RCW 3.62.090 (the public safety and education assessment) adds 105 percent to the penalty, so the total fine could be up to $2,050.
• An operator’s refusal cannot be used as evidence in a subsequent criminal trial.
The change added marijuana references to the law consistent with initiative 502, which made recreational use of marijuana legal. The legal limit for boating under the influence of marijuana is 5.0 nanograms.
Rentals, like all other boats, are now required to be outfitted with minimum safety equipment required by law, such as life jackets, fire extinguishers and signaling devices. Senate Bill 5437 changed the law so it’s clear what those requirements are for rented vessels. The bill ensures boat rental companies do not charge a separate price for providing legally required safety equipment.