Boating Under the Influence (OUI) in Arizona

If you are facing a charge of OUI, the penalties can be significant, including potential jail time. Turn to Bret Royle, the Phoenix DUI/OUI lawyer with the experience and dedication to provide you with the best defense available.

There is much said in the news about driving motor vehicles while intoxicated. Far less is heard about drinking while operating boat or other motorized watercraft. The reason may be that many people associate boating with having a beer or two in the sun with friends. After all, there is no “open container” law applicable to watercraft. Whatever the cause, the fact remains that boating under the influence, also known as OUI (operating under the influence) is a crime in the State of Arizona. And the laws governing boating while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs mirrors, in just about every significant respect, those that define and provide penalties for DUI.

The stated reason for the harsh penalties for OUI is the belief that because of the greater difficulty of handling watercraft, including the presence of the waves, sun and other factors, the dangers of operating while intoxicated may even be greater than in the case of driving a car. Reasoning aside, the law is clear that operating a boat while impaired by alcohol and/or drugs is illegal.

What is OUI?

The offense is governed by Title 5 of the Arizona Statutes, entitled Amusements and Sports. As in the case of automobiles, you are guilty of operating a motorized watercraft that is underway (or being in actual physical control)

  • while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or a combination of the two, if you are impaired to the slightest degree; or
  • if you have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 (BAC) or greater; or
  • if there is any dangerous drug or narcotic drug or other illegal drug (or its metabolite) in your system, other than a drug prescribed by your doctor; or
  • in the case of a commercial watercraft, if you have a BAC of 0.04 or higher.

Also like DUI, you can be charged with aggravated OUI. This more serious charge may apply where (a) you are convicted of a third OUI within a period of eighty-four months; or (b) there is a passenger on the watercraft who is under the age of 15, and you (i) recklessly endanger the minor with the risk of serious physical injury, (ii) have a prior OUI conviction, or (iii) have a BAC of 0.15 or more. In that regard, the OUI law contains a virtually identical version of the extreme DUI statute, providing additional penalties if your BAC is 0.15 or more (extreme OUI) or 0.20 or more (super extreme OUI).

What are the Penalties for OUI?

Once again, the OUI laws were modeled after the DUI statutes. Not surprisingly, the penalties are quite similar:

  • First Offense. This is a misdemeanor. You can expect, if convicted, potential jail time, which can be suspended if you complete an alcohol/drug screening (mandatory), and attend any classes recommended as a result. Fines, surcharges, and costs for screening and classes could well top $2,500. Note that a first offense extreme OUI conviction will result in increased fines and fees.
  • Second Offense. Also a misdemeanor, this will lead to increased mandatory jail time and increased fines and costs.
  • Aggravated DUI. This can be a felony charge, and the sentence can vary, but will ordinarily include mandatory jail time of at least four months.

This is obviously serious business, and the penalties associated with these charges, even if they are misdemeanors, can have a major effect on your finances and on your lifestyle. But not all OUI charges lead to a conviction.

Defending OUI Cases in Arizona

There is much about an OUI case that resembles DUI. But while it may be true that some of the same principles apply in both situations, and certain defenses can be raised in both types of cases, they are not identical. An example of the differences can be seen in the administration and results of Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFST’s).

SFST’s have been developed and approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and consist of three tests. Two of the tests, known as the one leg stand and the walk and turn, both measure coordination. Apart from the fallacy of the argument that failing these tests proves intoxication (they may, at best, prove lack of coordination), both involve balancing. If the tests are given on a boat, the motion will render any results even more suspect. If they are given on land shortly after leaving the boat, the after effects of being on the water can likewise affect the results.

OUI arrests are becoming more and more common in Arizona. Whether you are boating on Lake Havasu, Bartlett Lake, Saguaro Lake or any of the other lakes in Arizona, be aware that the officers from the Arizona Game and Fish Department and other agencies are on the lookout for intoxicated boaters. If you have been charged, contact The Law Office of Bret Royle today for a free, confidential consultation.

Free & Confidential Case Evaluation