How are field sobriety tests performed on boats?

On Behalf of | May 5, 2017 | Field Sobriety Tests

Many Marylanders are taking their boats out now that the weather is turning warm. Despite boating under the influence laws, often these excursions include a few beers, wine coolers or other alcoholic beverages.

Although BUI doesn’t have the same stigma as drunk driving, it can be just as dangerous and can have serious legal consequences. BUI laws vary by state, so if you take your boat up or down the coast, it’s essential to know what the laws are in the states whose waters you’re in.

You could also find yourself detained by the U.S. Coast Guard, which takes enforcement of BUI laws seriously because “alcohol is more hazardous on water than on land.”

If you are stopped by state or federal law enforcement officials or find yourself at a BUI checkpoint (yes, that’s a thing), you may be instructed to take a seated field sobriety test. Previously, law enforcement officers would direct those suspected to be operating a vessel under the influence to go to shore and perform a standard sobriety test on the dock.

However, most states now have seated sobriety tests that can be performed on the vessel. The seated test focuses on hand-eye coordination and gaze tracking. As with a standard field sobriety test, officers look for horizontal gaze nystagmus, which is erratic eye movement as the person is asked to focus on a moving object. Boaters may also be instructed to take a Breathalyzer test.

Just as with a DUI, you have the right to challenge the results of any tests you take if you are stopped for suspected BUI. A Maryland defense attorney with experience handling BUI cases can provide guidance and work to protect your rights.

Source: Medical Daily, “Please Remain Seated: Sobriety Tests For Boaters Now Designed For On-The-Water Checks,” Chris Weller, accessed May 05, 2017

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