Everyone knows that the legal limit for driving a car is a blood alcohol content of 0.08.
What many do not know is that until now the legal limit for operating a boat was actually a little higher, at 0.10.
This has finally changed, though, as the legal limit for boats was lowered to 0.08 last week.
The change is one of several updates to the boating laws that the Michigan Legislature enacted in its lame duck session.
These updates are important to Michigan boaters who are out having a good time and want to be safe out on the lake.
Michigan drunk driving laws became stricter in 2003. The drunk-boating laws were not updated at the same time as they were for cars, probably because federal money for state highways was tied to drunk driving laws but were unrelated to operating a boat while intoxicated.
The boating laws have now been updated to be in line with the drunk driving laws.
Ten-Year Period Rule:
Previously, drunk-boating was not a felony until a person received a third conviction within ten years of the previous two convictions. This is no longer the rule.
Now, a third drunk-boating conviction will be a felony, regardless of when the previous convictions occurred.
A first and second drunk-boating conviction is a misdemeanor, and the punishments for a second conviction can be more serious than a first conviction if it occurred within 7 years of the previous conviction.
Implied Consent for Boating:
Another update in the boating laws is the implied consent rules for boating.
When a person uses a boat they are deemed to give consent to a breath test when a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person is operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol.
A refusal to take a breath test can result in a suspension of boating privileges for 1 year. A second breath test refusal within a 7 year time period can result in a suspension of boating privileges for 2 years.
Previously, a first-time refusal resulted in a 6 month suspension, and a second refusal within a 7 year time period could result in a 1 year suspension.
The test being referred to is the breathalyzer machine (datamaster) at the police station, and not the portable breath test that a person may be asked to take when an officer first makes contact.
A refusal of the portable breath test is a civil infraction, and does not result in a suspension of boating privileges.
Perhaps a blog post discussing the boating laws would be more useful in the warmer weather months so we’ll put up a comprehensive post on the topic then.
Sam Bernstein is a an Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti DUI Attorney.
ArborYpsi Law is located at 4158 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48108.