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Boating Crimes - Other than BUI
If you are boating on open water in Washington State you come under the jurisdiction of both state and federal law.
This means that the local police, state police and the federal Coast Guard may enforce the Washington State BUI laws. The law pertains to all "vessels" that operate on the water.
Vessel is a very broad term and includes: "Every description of watercraft on the water, other than a seaplane, used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on the water. However, it does not include inner tubes, air mattresses, sailboards, and small rafts or flotation devices or toys customarily used by swimmers."
Below are felonies and misdemeanors that could come from a Washington State boating incident.
RCW 79A.60.050: Homicide by watercraft - Penalty
(1) When the death of any person ensues within three years as a proximate result of injury proximately caused by the operating of any vessel by any person, the operator is guilty of homicide by watercraft if he or she was operating the vessel:
- (a) While under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug, as defined by RCW 79A.60.040;
- (b) In a reckless manner; or
- (c) With disregard for the safety of others.
(2) When the death is caused by a skier towed by a vessel, the operator of the vessel is not guilty of homicide by watercraft.(3) A violation of this section is punishable as a class A felony according to chapter 9A.20 RCW.
RCW 79A.60.060: Assault by watercraft - Penalty
(1) "Serious bodily injury" means bodily injury which involves a substantial risk of death, serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any part or organ of the body.(2) A person is guilty of assault by watercraft if he or she operates any vessel:
- (a) In a reckless manner, and this conduct is the proximate cause of serious bodily injury to another; or
- (b) While under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug, as defined by RCW 79A.60.040, and this conduct is the proximate cause of serious bodily injury to another.
(3) When the injury is caused by a skier towed by a vessel, the operator of the vessel is not guilty of assault by watercraft.(4) A violation of this section is punishable as a class B felony according to chapter 9A.20 RCW.
RCW 79A.60.090: Eluding a law enforcement vessel.
Any operator of a vessel who willfully fails or refuses to immediately bring the vessel to a stop and who operates the vessel in a manner indicating a wanton or willful disregard for the lives or property of others while attempting to elude a pursuing law enforcement vessel, after being given a visual or audible signal to bring the vessel to a stop, shall be guilty of a class C felony punishable under chapter 9A.20 RCW. The signal given by the law enforcement officer may be by hand, voice, emergency light, or siren. The officer giving such a signal shall be in uniform and his or her vessel shall be appropriately marked showing it to be an official law enforcement vessel.
RCW 79A.60.200: Duty of operator involved in collision, accident, or other casualty - Immunity from liability of persons rendering assistance - Penalties.
(1) The operator of a vessel involved in a collision, accident, or other casualty, to the extent the operator can do so without serious danger to the operator's own vessel or persons aboard, shall render all practical and necessary assistance to persons affected by the collision, accident, or casualty to save them from danger caused by the incident. Under no circumstances may the rendering of assistance or other compliance with this section be evidence of the liability of such operator for the collision, accident, or casualty. The operator shall also give all pertinent accident information, as specified by rule by the commission, to the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction: PROVIDED, that this requirement shall not apply to operators of vessels when they are participating in an organized competitive event authorized or otherwise permitted by the appropriate agency having jurisdiction and authority to authorize such events. These duties are in addition to any duties otherwise imposed by law. Except as provided for in RCW 79A.60.020 and subsection (3) of this section, a violation of this subsection is a civil infraction punishable under RCW 7.84.100.(2) Any person who complies with subsection (1) of this section or who gratuitously and in good faith renders assistance at the scene of a vessel collision, accident, or other casualty, without objection of the person assisted, shall not be held liable for any civil damages as a result of the rendering of assistance or for any act or omission in providing or arranging salvage, towage, medical treatment, or other assistance, where the assisting person acts as any reasonably prudent person would have acted under the same or similar circumstances.(3) An operator of a vessel is guilty of a class C felony and is punishable pursuant to RCW 9A.20.021 if the operator: (a) Is involved in a collision that results in injury to a person; (b) knew or reasonably should have known that a person was injured in the collision; and (c) leaves the scene of the collision without rendering all practical and necessary assistance to the injured person as required pursuant to subsection (1) of this section, under circumstances in which the operator could have rendered assistance without serious danger to the operator's own vessel or persons aboard. This subsection (3) does not apply to vessels involved in commerce, including but not limited to tugs, barges, cargo vessels, commercial passenger vessels, fishing vessels, and processing vessels.
RCW 79A.60.080: Failure to stop for law enforcement officer.
Any operator of a vessel who willfully fails to stop when requested or signaled to do so by a person reasonably identifiable as a law enforcement officer is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.
RCW 79A.60.120: Tampering with vessel lights or signals - Exhibiting false lights or signals - Penalty
An operator or owner who endangers a vessel, or the persons on board the vessel, by showing, masking, extinguishing, altering, or removing any light or signal or by exhibiting any false light or signal, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable as provided in RCW 9.92.030.
RCW 79A.60.160: Personal flotation devices required - Penalty.
(1) No person may operate or permit the operation of a vessel on the waters of the state without a personal flotation device on board for each person on the vessel. Each personal flotation device shall be in serviceable condition, of an appropriate size, and readily accessible.(2) Except as provided in RCW 79A.60.020, a violation of subsection (1) of this section is an infraction under chapter 7.84 RCW if the vessel is not carrying passengers for hire.(3) A violation of subsection (1) of this section is a misdemeanor punishable under RCW 9.92.030, if the vessel is carrying passengers for hire.(4) No person shall operate a vessel under nineteen feet in length on the waters of this state with a child twelve years old and under, unless the child is wearing a personal flotation device that meets or exceeds the United States coast guard approval standards of the appropriate size, while the vessel is underway. For the purposes of this section, a personal flotation device is not considered readily accessible for children twelve years old and under unless the device is worn by the child while the vessel is underway. The personal flotation device must be worn at all times by a child twelve years old and under whenever the vessel is underway and the child is on an open deck or open cockpit of the vessel. The following circumstances are excepted:
- (a) While a child is below deck or in the cabin of a boat with an enclosed cabin;
- (b) While a child is on a United States coast guard inspected passenger-carrying vessel operating on the navigable waters of the United States; or
- (c) While on board a vessel at a time and place where no person would reasonably expect a danger of drowning to occur.
(5) Except as provided in RCW 79A.60.020, a violation of subsection (4) of this section is an infraction under chapter 7.84 RCW. Enforcement of subsection (4) of this section by law enforcement officers may be accomplished as a primary action, and need not be accompanied by the suspected violation of some other offense.
RCW 79A.60.170: Water skiing safety - Requirements.
(1) The purpose of this section is to promote safety in water skiing on the waters of Washington state, provide a means of ensuring safe water skiing and promote the enjoyment of water skiing. (2) No vessel operator may tow or attempt to tow a water skier on any waters of Washington state unless such craft shall be occupied by at least an operator and an observer. The observer shall continuously observe the person or persons being towed and shall display a flag immediately after the towed person or persons fall into the water, and during the time preparatory to skiing while the person or persons are still in the water. Such flag shall be a bright red or brilliant orange color, measuring at least twelve inches square, mounted on a pole not less than twenty-four inches long and displayed as to be visible from every direction. This subsection does not apply to a personal watercraft, the design of which makes no provision for carrying an operator or any other person on board, and that is actually operated by the person or persons being towed. Every remote-operated personal watercraft shall have a flag attached which meets the requirements of this subsection. Except as provided under RCW 79A.60.020, a violation of this subsection is an infraction under chapter 7.84 RCW. (3) The observer and the operator shall not be the same person. The observer shall be an individual who meets the minimum qualifications for an observer established by rules of the commission. Except as provided under RCW 79A.60.020, a violation of this subsection is an infraction under chapter 7.84 RCW.(4) No person shall engage or attempt to engage in water skiing without wearing a personal flotation device. Except as provided under RCW 79A.60.020, a violation of this subsection is an infraction under chapter 7.84 RCW.(5) No person shall engage or attempt to engage in water skiing, or operate any vessel to tow a water skier, on the waters of Washington state during the period from one hour after sunset until one hour prior to sunrise. A violation of this subsection is a misdemeanor, punishable as provided under RCW 9.92.030. (6) No person engaged in water skiing either as operator, observer, or skier, shall conduct himself or herself in a reckless manner that willfully or wantonly endangers, or is likely to endanger, any person or property. A violation of this subsection is a misdemeanor as provided under RCW 9.92.030.(7) The requirements of subsections (2), (3), (4), and (5) of this section shall not apply to persons engaged in tournaments, competitions, or exhibitions that have been authorized or otherwise permitted by the appropriate agency having jurisdiction and authority to authorize such events.
RCW 79A.60.180: Loading or powering vessel beyond safe operating ability - Penalties.
(1) A person shall not load or permit to be loaded a vessel with passengers or cargo beyond its safe carrying ability or carry passengers or cargo in an unsafe manner taking into consideration weather and other existing operating conditions. (2) A person shall not operate or permit to be operated a vessel equipped with a motor or other propulsion machinery of a power beyond the vessel's ability to operate safely, taking into consideration the vessel's type, use, and construction, the weather conditions, and other existing operating conditions. (3) A violation of subsection (1) or (2) of this section is an infraction punishable as provided under chapter 7.84 RCW except as provided under RCW 79A.60.020 or where the overloading or overpowering is reasonably advisable to effect a rescue or for some similar emergency purpose. (4) If it appears reasonably certain to any law enforcement officer that a person is operating a vessel clearly loaded or powered beyond its safe operating ability and in the judgment of that officer the operation creates an especially hazardous condition, the officer may direct the operator to take immediate and reasonable steps necessary for the safety of the individuals on board the vessel, including directing the operator to return to shore or a mooring and to remain there until the situation creating the hazard is corrected or ended. Failure to follow the direction of an officer under this subsection is a misdemeanor punishable as provided under RCW 9.92.030.
RCW 79A.60.190: Operation of personal watercraft - prohibited activities - Penalties.
(1) A person shall not operate a personal watercraft unless each person aboard the personal watercraft is wearing a personal flotation device approved by the commission. Except as provided for in RCW 79A.60.020, a violation of this subsection is a civil infraction punishable under RCW 7.84.100. (2) A person operating a personal watercraft equipped by the manufacturer with a lanyard-type engine cutoff switch shall attach the lanyard to his or her person, clothing, or personal flotation device as appropriate for the specific vessel. It is unlawful for any person to remove or disable a cutoff switch that was installed by the manufacturer. (3) A person shall not operate a personal watercraft during darkness. (4) A person under the age of fourteen shall not operate a personal watercraft on the waters of this state. (5) A person shall not operate a personal watercraft in a reckless manner, including recklessly weaving through congested vessel traffic, recklessly jumping the wake of another vessel unreasonably or unnecessarily close to the vessel or when visibility around the vessel is obstructed, or recklessly swerving at the last possible moment to avoid collision. (6) A person shall not lease, hire, or rent a personal watercraft to a person under the age of sixteen. (7) Subsections (1) through (6) of this section shall not apply to a performer engaged in a professional exhibition or a person participating in a regatta, race, marine parade, tournament, or exhibition authorized or otherwise permitted by the appropriate agency having jurisdiction and authority to authorize such events.(8) Violations of subsections (2) through (6) of this section constitute a misdemeanor under RCW 9.92.030.