Boating under the Influence

Most people in Nevada know well that Driving under the Influence is a crime.  Many people however do not realize that operating a boating vessel under the influence is also against Nevada law.  In fact, there are a large number of citations and arrests issued for Boating under the Influence on Nevada bodies of water, including the popular waters of Lake Mead.  The law as it pertains to boating under the influence charges is found in Nevada Revised Statute (NRS) Boating Under the Influence – NRS 488.410

Definition of the Crime and Essential Elements

Boating Under the Influence

Operating a water vessel or boat while impaired or intoxicated is very similar to driving a car while intoxicated under Nevada law. You may be arrested and have to submit to chemical tests of your breath, your blood or perhaps a combination of the two. In order to be convicted of boating under the influence, the following elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt:

1)    The accused was operating, or was in actual physical control, of a vessel under power or sale on the waters of Nevada

2)    The accused was under the influence of alcohol and/or the accused was under the influence of drugs.

Nevada law defines having a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or more as being per se impaired or intoxicated and thus unable to safely operate a boat.

 Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

1. Driving Under the Influence (First Offense) – NRS 484C.010

2. Driving Under the Influence (Second Offense) NRS 484C.010

3. Driving Under the Influence (Third Offense) – NRS 484C.010

4. Driving Under the Influence Causing Injury or Death – NRS 484C.430

5. Boating Under the Influence with Death or Injury – NRS 489.425

Examples

L decides to take his boat out to Lake Mead with friends and family on the Fourth of July. His boat is pontoon style, so it works well for a large gathering. Some of the people on board bring food, while others bring alcoholic beverages. L had been drinking beer to celebrate the holiday.  L is come upon by law enforcement as he operates the vessel.  Seeing him consume an alcoholic beverage, park rangers request he perform field sobriety tests, which they indicate he fails.  Thereafter L is arrested and later provides a breath sample, which registers a .15 breath alcohol concentration.   

Defenses to Boating Under the Influence

It is important to remember that being accused of Boating under the Influence is not the same thing as being found guilty. Every case has different circumstances, and almost every case has elements in it that can lead to a defense.

One example of a defense for Boating Under the Influence would be that you were not the operator of the boat. If law enforcement is patrolling a large body of water, he may not be able to see exactly who is driving the boat from far away. It is possible that you were a passenger, and not the actual driver. Likewise, it could be that law enforcement sees the boat at a time it is anchored and makes an inaccurate assessment of who is in control of the vessel.  It may be possible to get the charges dismissed if the Government cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused was the operation and in actual control of the boat.

Another potential defense for Boating Under the Influence would be the time of the drinking. If a person did not begin drinking until after the individual stopped operating the boat, then the boat was not being operated. Therefore, the State cannot show that the boating was done while under the influence of alcohol.

Additionally, it can be very difficult to perform field sobriety tests while on a boat. When a boat is on the water and waves are moving it, it can be very difficult to do a walk and turn test or try to stand on one leg. An experienced criminal defense attorney can make the argument that the field sobriety tests were not able to indicate properly if the accused was under the influence, given the factors that come into play while a person is on a boat.

Potential Penalty for Boating Under the Influence

Boating Under the Influence is usually charged as a misdemeanor. However, if a person was Boating Under the Influence and it resulted in injury or death, or has a past felony boating under the influence conviction, then it can be charged as a felony.

If convicted of misdemeanor Boating Under the Influence, the defendant faces six months in jail and/or $1,000 in fines.

If the defendant was previously convicted of Boating Under the Influence that Caused Death or Injury, then that person will be charged with Boating Under the Influence as a Category B Felony. The penalties for a Category B Felony conviction include 2 to 15 years in prison and between $2,000 to $5,000 in fines.

The Judge is not allowed to grant probation or a suspended sentence for Felony Boating Under the Influence convictions.

Criminal Defense for Boating Under the Influence

Boating Under the Influence is not a crime that many people think that they can be charged with. However, when a fun day on the lake or the river turns into a person being arrested, it is important to get in contact with an Experienced Las Vegas Boating under the Influence Attorney.  

For more information about Boating Under the Influence in Las Vegas or throughout the State of Nevada, call the law firm of Hofland & Tomsheck right away to schedule your free consultation.  (702) 895-6760.