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Michigan Drunk Boating

If you are one of the approximately 800,000 people who own a motorboat in Michigan, you should be aware that the state has been strengthening measures to prevent drunk driving of watercraft. Drunk boating has repeatedly been cited as the leading cause of fatal accidents on the water, and contributes annually to non-fatal accidents and collisions.

Recently, the maximum blood alcohol content level for boat operators decreased from .10% to .08%, the current level for motor vehicles. Even if a boat operator's blood alcohol level is below .08%, if he is driving while visibly impaired, the operator can still be convicted of boating under the influence (BUI). If a driver is under 21 and has any alcohol in his system, regardless of whether the driver is impaired at all, he has violated the BUI laws.

The punishment for a violation of the BUI laws varies depending on whether another person was injured or killed due to the intoxication of the driver. Should no injuries occur, a first-time offender will be sentenced to a misdemeanor and can be punished by any combination of up to 45 days of community service, up to 93 days of imprisonment, or a $100-500 fee. However, harsher punishments exist for the second offense within seven years and, for the third offense within any amount of years, a felony carrying at minimum one year of imprisonment will be charged.

When drinking takes place on your boat, try to have a designated driver or be careful about your own alcohol consumption. Be aware that extended hours in the sun and the rocking of a boat may cause you to feel more impaired than you would after the same amount of alcohol consumption on land. Do not consume controlled substances--even if you do not feel impaired after doing so, this is still a violation of the BUI laws.

If you are charged with a violation of the BUI laws, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you decide how to handle your charges. Because BUI penalties increase with the amount of offenses, avoiding a conviction--even for a single misdemeanor--via diversion programs or plea bargains through the help of an attorney may be the best avenue to secure your freedom now and in the future.

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