While you are probably familiar with Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charges, Operating Under the Influence (OUI) or Boating Under the Influence charges may be something new. It is no surprise that this is not a common Arizona charge since boating is not a common activity in our state unless you are boating on one of our few lakes such as Lake Havasu.
How is an OUI different from a DUI charge?
The main difference is the vehicle you are in control of. Operating a boat while under the influence is a class one misdemeanor.1 The penalty is no less than ten (10) consecutive days in jail with no eligibility for probation until the entire sentence is served. A.R.S. § 5-395.01(A)(1). Further, you will be fined $250.00. A.R.S. § 5-395.01(A)(2). Basically, if you are navigating an Arizona waterway with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08 or more you will be charged with an OUI.2 If the watercraft is a commercial one, the BAC level is more strict and you could be charged for having a BAC of 0.04 or more.3
Under the Arizona boating DUI statute, a prosecutor must prove that you were operating or you were in actual physical control of a motorized watercraft and that you consumed whatever made your BAC level reach over the required amount before or while you were operating the watercraft.4
Another difference between the two charges is how tests to determine your BAC are administered. Standard Field Sobriety Tests are developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and consist of three tests.5 The three typical types of tests are blood, breath, and urine tests. There are field sobriety tests that require you to walk a line or something along those lines. These tests could be administered on the boat at the time of your arrest, and thus test results may not be accurate. Once you enter a navigable waterway, however, you will automatically give consent to law enforcement officers who have probable cause to believe you might be operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A.R.S. § 5-295.03(A). If you refuse these tests you could be fined $750.00 or more. A.R.S. § 5-295.03(C).
Otherwise, penalties for OUI and DUI are similar. You can be charged with an aggravated OUI, which is a felony charge with varying sentences.6 First and second offense charges are misdemeanors and come with jail time, fines, and classes.7
Who patrols the Arizona waterways?
Officers from the Arizona Game and Fish Department in Arizona and other neighboring states (such as California and Nevada) will conduct saturation patrols during the river and lakes’ busiest months.8 For example, Lake Havasu is governed by eight (8) agencies, including the Lake Havasu City Police Department.9 There are OUI checkpoints on the lake set up during busy months as well.10
If you are charged with an OUI in Arizona, you should find an experienced attorney who has dealt with DUI and OUI cases before. The attorney will represent you in proceedings and communicate with the prosecutor on your behalf.
 Operating Under the Influence (OUI), azgfd.gov, http://www.azgfd.gov/outdoor_recreation/oui.shtml (last visited Nov. 20, 2014).
3 Lawrence Koplow, Boating DUI (OUI), arizonaduicenter.com, http://www.arizonaduicenter.com/practice-areas/boating-dui-oui/ (last visited Nov. 20, 2014).
5 Bret A. Royle, Boating Under the Influence (OUI) in Arizona, criminalazlawyer.com, http://www.criminalazlawyer.com/content/boating-influence-oui-arizona (last visited Nov. 20, 2014).
8 Operating Under the Influence, golakehavasu.com, http://www.golakehavasu.com/activities/boating/boating_safety/oui.aspx?print=1 (last visited Nov. 20, 2014).