As that old sea shanty asks, “What do you do with a drunken sailor?” Alabama's Marine Police would likely respond to those intoxicated skippers, “Set up some checkpoints and reel ‘em in.” To be frank, boating under the influence (BUI) of alcohol is a serious matter as too many people have been killed by drunken boaters in the past. This is just a friendly reminder that law enforcement throughout our state has little tolerance for both drunk driving and drunk boating.
This is why Alabama, along with 45 other states, initiated the first weekend of its summer-long “Operation Dry Waters” BUI awareness campaign. This past Friday through Sunday was the first in a string of weekends where the state's Marine Police join other Alabama law enforcement entities in an effort to improve safety on Alabama waterways. Just this past weekend, officers performed 30 field sobriety tests and made 15 alcohol-related arrests, eight of which were for boating under the influence.
Besides the obvious warnings about the dangers and penalties for piloting a boat — or for that matter driving a car — under the influence of alcohol, as a Birmingham drunk driving defense lawyer, I have a concern that most folks don't always consider. And this stems from the fact that Alabama has both “dry” and “wet” municipalities.
Boaters navigating the state's lakes, rivers and tributaries must always keep in mind that they could be violating local law, even if they are not intoxicated. Especially in northern Alabama, it's a good idea to always be aware of the particular communities in which you are operating your boat. And no matter where you are on the water, I highly recommend that you always have a designated driver in order to stay safe and within the law. As any Alabama police officer will tell you, sobriety at the helm is the number one priority.
Of course, mistakes happen, which is why I always tell my friends and family to seek the counsel of a qualified legal professional anytime you are arrested or issued a summons for boating or driving under the influence, or for breath test refusal. With the Fourth of July holiday just around the corner, Alabama's Marine Police will be scanning the horizon for alcohol related incidents, as well as careless and reckless watercraft operation. Enjoy yourselves, but most of all be careful out there.
Marine Police participate in “Operation Dry Waters,” WAFF.com, June 30, 2009