Seafair Weekend in Seattle
Seafair is a great time in Seattle and brings a fun-filled weekend for people of all ages . However, fun and drinking on the water also comes with increased attention from law enforcement. Multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Washington State Patrol, Coast Guard, King County Sheriff's Office, and multiple city police agencies, will deploy officers on the water as part of a boating under the influence (BUI) patrol. In fact, they will treat the weekend as almost a contest to see who can arrest the most boaters they believe are under the influence.
The best advice we can give you is to make sure that operators leave the drinking and/or marijuana use to others; however, if you are detained, you should keep in mind that BUI is a gross misdemeanor crime. If you are contacted by law enforcement when you have been boating after/while drinking, you should exercise your Fifth Amendment right to silence and ask to speak with an attorney.
The BUI law provides:
Operation of vessel in a reckless manner—Operation of a vessel under the influence of intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or any drug—Consent to breath or blood test—Penalty.
(1) It is unlawful for any person to operate a vessel in a reckless manner.
(2) It is unlawful for a person to operate a vessel while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or any drug. A person is considered to be under the influence of intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or any drug if, within two hours of operating a vessel:
(a) The person has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher as shown by analysis of the person's breath or blood made under RCW 46.61.506
(b) The person has a THC concentration of 5.00 or higher as shown by analysis of the person's blood made under RCW 46.61.506
(c) The person is under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or any drug; or
(d) The person is under the combined influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor, marijuana, and any drug.
Unlike driving under the influence (DUI), there are no consequences to your driver's license such as suspensions or ignition interlock devices with a BUI conviction. The maximum penalty is 364 days jail and a $5000 fine but it is unlikely a first time offender would get anywhere near the maximum. There are no minimum jail or fine penalties as is the case with DUI. You can be cited with a $1000 civil infraction if you refuse the official evidentiary breath test at the station but you should talk to an attorney before making this decision.
If you are arrested, the police officer will write a report and forward it to the prosecutor. There is a high probability that you would then receive a notice in the mail for your first court date, called the arraignment, in King County District Court.
Geoff and I have extensive experience defending charges in King County District Court. We have gotten BUI cases reduced to the civil infraction of negligent boating and a fine. If the prosecutor will not make an acceptable offer, we have the trial experience to give you the best fight possible.