Penalties for boating DUI take effect today

By The Associated Press

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OLYMPIA — A change in state law taking effect today (Sunday) ups the penalty for boating under the influence and includes limits for marijuana intoxication.

Boating under the influence will change from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor and will be punishable by as much as a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

The legal limit for marijuana use will be 5 nanograms, to be measured by a blood sample obtained through a warrant.

Spokane County Sheriff Deputy Craig Chamberlin was among state law enforcement officials who pushed for the change, both to clarify the law in regards to marijuana and to make the penalty harsher.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that a blood test without a warrant may be unconstitutional.
Chamberlin said the Spokane sheriff's office has obtained warrants when excessive marijuana use is suspected.

He said a deputy can place a citizen under arrest with probable cause, such as someone slurring their speech or driving a boat erratically. Sobriety field tests are not reliable on the water because of rocking boats, he said.

The suspect stays in custody until a warrant is obtained for the blood test.

That can take time, Chamberlin said, although there is always a judge on call.

Results can take as long as a month.

Chamberlin said the biggest difference between driving-under-the-influence arrests in cars versus boats is the initial stop.

On the water, deputies can perform regular boat-safety checks and therefore do not have to have a reason to make a stop.

On the road, law enforcement has to have a reason to pull over a vehicle.

Another difference is open-container restrictions.

Boaters can have open containers of alcohol, unlike drivers.

Last modified: July 27. 2013 11:30PM
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