Marine Regulations in Washington: Marine Law Enforcement of Lakes, Rivers, Oceans and other Bodies of Water: A Defense Lawyer’s Prospective.
Being contacted, arrested or ticketed by law enforcement is a scary experience, especially if you are caught off guard because you did not know you were doing anything wrong or you and a family were relaxing and having fun.
Marine Law Enforcement
Just like Federal and State Parks having specific rules governing their lands, State waterways have their own operational and equipment restrictions. Many of the rules can be found in the Adventures in Boating Washington Handbook but often local jurisdictions will also have their own regulations they enforce whether you know of the regulations or not. Washington State Park Rangers, Washington State Fish & Wildlife Officers have authority to patrol and enforce waterway regulations along with County Sheriffs and City officers where the waterways are located. If it is a federal waterway, then the US Coast Guard is responsible. Each of these agencies has the authority to stop your vessel and come aboard to investigate proper compliance with State and Federal regulations … in our role as criminal defense attorneys, we see a lot of tickets, citations and charges coming out of this authority.
This ability to stop you and check your compliance can lead to Fishing Violations, Unlawful Taking of Endangered Fish or Wildlife charges, drug charges (HYPRLINK), and boating under the influence (BUI). Being arrested or cited is not fun but do not compound the situation by trying to explain your way out of it. Anything you say can be used against you in a future criminal trial. When contacted by any investigative personnel, the less said, the better. Contact our office as soon as possible so our attorneys can intervene on your behalf.
FYI. In Washington, a BUI is treated criminally very similar to that of a DUI charge. The maximum penalty is also 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. Other aspects are different. For example, a refusal to provide a breath sample will not be used against you in a BUI criminal trial but you may face a civil infraction with a penalty over $1,000. A refusal with a DUI will be used against you in a criminal case and can result in harsher penalties. Another key difference is a DUI will impact your driver’s license but a BUI will not. BUIs are commonly filed in both municipal courts as well as State district courts depending on which police agency arrests you. If you are taken into custody by a city police boat, your case will then typically end up in the municipal court where you were boating. If it was a state agency who stopped you, like a county sheriff, your case will then be in a State court.