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In Rhode Island, BUI penalties and fines are stiff

Newport residents and visitors are surrounded by water and many enjoy boating throughout the summer months. When boating, safety is important and U.S. Coast Guard officers regularly patrol the waters around Newport to identify possible boating hazards and engage in rescue operations.

As part of their safety enforcement efforts, Coast Guard officers are also on the lookout for boaters who are suspected of operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. While similar in many ways, there are important differences between Rhode Island's drunk driving and drunk boating laws of which all boaters should be aware.

The U.S. Coast Guard notes that there are numerous factors that may affect a boater's ability to safely operate a vessel including sun, heat, wind, glare and fatigue. Additionally, the use of drugs or alcohol while operating a boat can impair a boater's ability to safety operate a boat and puts the safety of passengers and other boaters at risk of suffering injury or drowning.

Due to the various factors that may contribute to a boater's erratic or potentially unsafe maneuvers, Rhode Island does not require that U.S. Coast Guard officers have probable cause to stop or board a boat. Once aboard, if a driver is suspected of drinking and boating, a series of field sobriety tests will be conducted. A boater may also be asked to submit to a breath test. At .08, the legal blood alcohol content level for DUI and BUI is the same.

Boaters who found to have BAC levels of .08 or higher are detained by the U.S. Coast Guard and then handed over to local police department officials. The penalties associated with BUI are stiff and include up to a 12 month jail sentence, fines between $100 to $1,000, boating license suspension of up to two years, criminal BUI charge and other associated fines and penalties.  

Rhode Island boaters who are facing BUI charges can often benefit from the advice and assistance of a criminal defense attorney who handles drunk driving matters.

Source: U.S. Coast Guard, "Rhode Island," July 17, 2015, "Boating Under the Influence Basics," July 17, 2015, "Boating and Drinking Laws by State: Rhode Island," July 17, 2015

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