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On Washington, DC DUI Boat Charges

by | Jul 14, 2014

As a Washington, DC DUI boat lawyer, I understand that how unfairly boaters are sometimes treated by the police.

With the hot days of summer now upon us, it’s nice to get out on the water and cool down.  It can be a lot of lot of fun to spend a day boating on the Potomac or Anacostia rivers with friends and family.  Maybe do a little fishing or just sit out and relax.  Unfortunately, a good day can turn into a really bad day in a hurry if an overzealous member of the DC Harbor Patrol decides to perform a vessel safety check.  This would be the same harbor officers who sunk two yachts last year in Georgetown while making a U-turn.

A typical police report I see in DC DUI boating cases involves an officer who claims to see a beer bottle in the driver’s hand.  Interestingly, the officer is usually very far from the suspect when he happens to notice an alcoholic beverage.  The officer will then approach the boat to initiate a vessel safety inspection.

After finding no real violations (though there is usually some minor safety regulation an officer will find), the officer will tell you that he suspects you have been drinking and tow the boat to a local marina.  At this point, he or she will order you off the boat and ask you to take a field sobriety test.  Your balance will probably be affected by the fact that you were just on a rocking boat but the officer probably won’t let that stop him from administering the standardized field sobriety test which consists of balance exercises.

Sometimes the officers will tell you things like “having a drink on the water is equivalent to having three drinks on land because of the hot sun and the rocking of the boat.”  There is no scientific basis whatsoever for these theories but that doesn’t prevent the officers from trying to use them as evidence of your intoxication.

The officer will eventually decide that you were boating under the influence, a charge which is technically called Driving Under the Influence – Watercraft and take you to a jail cell, have you booked, and give you a citation to return to the D.C. Superior Court at a later date.

This is a serious charge that can have a serious effect on the rest of your life and your ability to drive.  You should contact a DC DUI boat defense lawyer as soon as possible so that you can discuss the facts of your specific case.  There may be a lot that can be done to avoid a conviction so the sooner you hire a lawyer, the better things may work out in your case.

In some cases, the stop may have been illegal and your lawyer can file a motion to suppress, which if successful, will result in the dismissal of your case.  Other times, your attorney can attack the validity of the standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) administered by the police.  If the police had you blow into a Breathalyzer, there may be ways to challenge the results or exclude the evidence at trial.

If you have been charged with any of these Washington, DC drunk driving offenses or any other DC crime, contact Attorney Christopher J. Mutimer by calling 202-765-3175 or by filling out an online contact form. Credit Cards Accepted

Additional Resources:

Boatloads of Trouble: D.C. Police Slam Into 2 Boats On Potomac River, September 1, 2013, CBS Baltimore