It is that time of the year again. Hydros on the lake, Blue Angels in the air, and police all over Lake Washington looking for BUIs. Seafair weekend typically produces more BUI arrests in King County in three days than the rest of the year combined.
Of equal concern is that not only have BUI laws become far more strict in recent years, Prosecutors continue to treat these cases with the same vigor as a DUI. For that reason, this weekend poses a significant risk for anyone who wishes to enjoy a day on the lake while using alcohol. The only way you can avoid a BUI is to not drink and operate a vessel. But in the event you are on the lake this weekend, or you get contacted by law enforcement this weekend, you must know the following:
1. Law enforcement is enforcing ALL maritime regulations to the strictest of degree. Any violation will certainly lead to police contact.
2. There are several rules in effect Seafair weekend that many boaters are not familiar with. First, the entire lake, west of mercer island, south of the I-90 bridge and to the southern most point of Mercer Island, IS A NOT WAKE ZONE. This means that you must be at dead troll speed at all times while underway in this area. This area is not significantly marked, but law enforcement will STRICTLY enforce this rule. Second, YOU CANNOT PULL ANYONE OR ANYTHING when inside this NO WAKE ZONE. Inner-tubes, rafts and other floatation devices cannot be towed in this area. You will be pulled over if the police see you doing this. Finally, although many boats have "open bow" designs, law enforcement will enforce the "BOW RIDING" statute to preclude anyone sitting in or on the bow while the vessel is underway.
3. If contacted by law enforcement, BE POLITE AT ALL TIMES.
4. If asked to take field sobriety tests, politely decline. While the police may not make it seem as though you can decline these tests, the law in Washington permits you to do exactly that. You should politely decline to perform any test, including portable breath testing, and should clearly inform the police that this is based upon "advice of counsel."
5. If arrested, remain silent, do not answer any questions and immediately request an attorney.
6. Once you have been taken back to the shore, DO NOT PERFORM any other field sobriety tests and request to speak with an attorney.
7. Although the police are not required to provide you access to the attorney of your choice, reasonable efforts should be made. If you cannot reach the attorney of your choice, or law enforcement refuses to assist with finding your attorney, REQUEST TO SPEAK WITH THE PUBLIC DEFENDER.
8. Request a private conversation withe public defender. If the officer refuses to give your privacy, inform your attorney of this immediately.
9. Try to determine if the officer intends on seeking a warrant for a blood draw in the event you decide to refuse to take a breath test.
10. In all likelihood, you will refuse to take a breath test when offered by the police onshore. Unlike in the DUI setting, where you can lose your driver's license and increase mandatory jail time, BUI BAC refusals are inadmissible in court and will not affect any penalties. There is ONE EXCEPTION: should you refuse to submit to a breath test in the BUI setting, you may be issued a civil infraction (ticket) and a fine of $1,000 may be imposed. The refusal, however, cannot be used against you in a court of law. If there is a good faith belief that the officer will seek a warrant for your blood in the event you refuse, YOU MUST DISCUSS THIS WITH YOUR ATTORNEY.
11. If the officer intends on booking you, immediately ASK FOR AN INDEPENDENT TEST of your blood to determine alcohol concentration.
Seafair weekend has become one of Seattle's great past times. But poor judgement, or over aggressive law enforcement can ruin a great day on the lake. Remember, the only way to avoid a BUI is to not drink and operate a vessel. But if you find yourself in the need of assistance, Cowan Kirk Kattenhorn can help. Be safe, be smart and boat sober.