How will the law enforcement officer test me to determine if I am under the influence?
A waterways conservation officer, having reasonable suspicion to believe a person is operating or in actual physical control of the movement of a watercraft while under the influence of alcohol, may request that person to submit to a preliminary breath test. This test may be administered before arrest. Other field sobriety tests have been developed and are approved for this purpose.
Does the law enforcement officer require my permission to test my blood alcohol content?
Any person who operates or is in actual physical control of the movement of the watercraft upon, in or through the waters of the Commonwealth shall be determined to have given consent to one or more chemical tests or breath, blood, or urine for the purpose of the determining the alcohol content of blood or the presence of a controlled substance. The waterways conservation officer must have reasonable grounds to believe that the person has been operating or has been in actual physical control of the movement of the watercraft. If any person placed under arrest for operating a watercraft under the influence of alcohol or controlled substance is requested to submit to chemical testing and refuses, the test shall not be conducted. But the Commonwealth shall suspend the boating privileges of the person for a period of 12 months. In addition to suspending boating privileges for one year, the fact that the defendant refused to submit to chemical testing may be introduced in evidence along with the other testimony concerning the circumstances of the refusal.
What happens if I am caught?
The penalties for operation of a watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance could lead to a criminal record and a fine of not less than $500.00 nor more than $7,500.00, or imprisonment not exceeding two years, or both, plus the loss of boating privileges for a period of 12 months. Homicide by watercraft while under the influence carries a fine of not less than $2,500.00 nor exceeding $15,000.00, and imprisonment not exceeding seven years, or both. In addition, to the offenses described above, operating a watercraft under the influence may also violate other laws. The may include prohibitions against reckless or negligent operation of boats, public drunkenness, disorderly conduct and underage drinking.
May I drink in my boat?
This answer depends on several variables including where you boat, how much you drink and other laws that pertain to alcohol. Check with the local authorities before bringing alcohol into an area. In some places it is legal to drink on a boat. However, laws such as public drunkenness, disorderly conduct and underage drinking apply both to the operator and the passengers. It is illegal to operate a watercraft on all waters of the Commonwealth while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance.