Tips for Staying Out of Trouble on the Water This Spring and Summer
If you find yourself enjoying a day out on a boat this year, consider yourself lucky. Only about 240,000 people in Illinois are fortunate enough to own a boat. However, if you run into a law enforcement officer while boating, here are a few tips to remember that can help you avoid charges related to operating a boat while intoxicated, which is prosecuted in the same manner as driving under the influence (DUI):
Try to remember that Illinois boating regulations do not exist to spoil your day at the lake and generate revenue from fines. They exist to keep everyone safe.
When the police ask you to do something for basic safety reasons—for example, to show identification, to move from one place to another, or to keep your hands where they can be seen—always comply courteously.
Keep Private Things Private, In Both Words and Deeds
While you are out on a boat, it is easy to start feeling like you are in your own world, away from it all. You might even feel like being on your boat accords you the same privacy that you have in your own home or backyard. It can be easy to forget that law enforcement officers do patrol marinas, lakes, and rivers, and that there are just as many laws applying to boating as there are to driving a car.
An event which took place in July 2017 illustrates why it is wise to mind both your manners and your mouth, even on your boat. As two Conservation Police officers patrolled a busy Illinois lake, they witnessed a speedboat towing a waterskier. After the skier returned to the boat, the boat driver proceeded to the front of the boat and began urinating in plain view. The officers approached the boat and asked if the driver had been drinking. The 18-year-old driver said he had had one beer. (Admitting consumption was his first mistake, especially since he was underage.)
The officers escorted the boat driver to a nearby landing for field sobriety testing, at which point the driver confessed to having three beers. That was followed by a portable breathalyzer test, which showed a blood-alcohol concentration of .137 percent. The driver eventually admitted to drinking a total of 9 beers. (Lying was his second mistake. It never pays to lie to the police; it only makes them more likely to be hard on you when they write up their citations.)
The officers cited the driver for operating a boat under the influence and illegal consumption of alcohol by a minor. He also received a warning for nudity on Illinois Department of Natural Resources property, plus two boating violations. A 19-year-old passenger was also cited for illegal consumption of alcohol by a minor.
What can we learn from this story? First, remember that when an officer asks you questions about what you have been doing, he is looking for evidence to use against you. Your best response to such police questioning is normally “I prefer not to answer” or “I am going to exercise my right to remain silent.”
Second, if you can do it carefully, you may want to offer explanations for any aspects of your appearance or behavior that an officer might mistake as signs of intoxication and probable cause for a DUI arrest. For example, a police officer might mistakenly conclude you were intoxicated when, in fact, you had red eyes from being out in the sun all day and were light-headed from dehydration.
Trust an Experienced Joliet Defense Attorney
If you are charged with boating under the influence or some other offense, you should contact a knowledgeable Will County criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. The Law Offices of Jack L. Zaremba will thoroughly investigate the details of your case and recommend the best defense strategy. Contact us at 815-740-4025 for a free and confidential consultation; phone calls are answered 24 hours a day.