OLYMPIA, Wash. - The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, its Boating Safety Council and other boating leaders in Washington worked to amend the law to make boating safer in Washington. The change is intended to deter people from operating a boat while under the influence (BUI) by increasing the penalty and making breathalyzer tests mandatory. Read more about the law change in the BUI fact sheet.
Increased penalties for operating a boat under the influence - RCW* 79A.60.040
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 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 on July 28, 2013:
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% 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
Making boat rental laws clear - RCW 79A.60
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.
Authority to cite for boat accidents - RCW 10.31.100
most common type of boating accident in Washington state is a boat collision - either with another
vessel or a fixed object. The most common reason for these accidents is operator inattention or a
related violation of the boating “rules of the road.” The law changes so an officer investigating a
boating accident can issue a citation to the boater at fault even if the officer did not witness the
accident. Officers would make this decision during the course of an investigation - as they currently do
with vehicle accidents.
* RCW stands for Revised Code of Washington - RCWs are Washington State Law.