MICHIGAN LAW prohibits anyone from boating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It is also unlawful for the owner of a vessel to allow anyone else to operate their vessel if that person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The following conditions determine if you are boating under the influence.
If your blood alcohol content is 0.10% or greater by weight of alcohol as determined by a breath, blood, or urine test, you are considered to be under the influence of alcohol.
If your blood alcohol content is greater than 0.07% but less than 0.10% by weight of alcohol as determined by a breath, blood, or urine test, a law enforcement officer can consider that fact along with other evidence in determining if you are under the influence.
Michigan law establishes the following penalties.
People arrested for boating under the influence are guilty of a misdemeanor. Upon a third conviction within 10 years, a person will be guilty of a felony.
If a person boating under the influence causes great bodily injury or death of another person, he or she will be guilty of a felony.
By operating a vessel on Michigan waters, you have consented to be tested for alcohol or drugs if arrested by a law enforcement official.
It’s the Law: On the Water
Who Enforces the Laws?
The boating laws of Michigan are enforced by officers of the Law Enforcement Division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, County Sheriff’s Department, U.S. Coast Guard, and any other authorized law enforcement agency. They have the right to stop and board vessels in order to check for compliance with federal and state laws. The USCG has enforcement authority on federally controlled waters.
WHO MAY OPERATE A BOAT?
Those less than 12 years of age:
May operate a boat powered by a motor of no more than 6 horsepower (hp) legally without restrictions.
May operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 6 hp but no more than 35 hp legally only if they are directly supervised on board by a person at least 16 years of age.
May not operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 35 hp legally under any conditions.
Those 12 to 15 years of age:
May operate a boat powered by a motor of no more than 6 hp legally without restrictions.
May operate a boat powered by a motor of more than 6 hp legally only if they:
Have passed a boating safety course approved by the Department of Natural Resources and Environment have on board their boating safety certificate or …
Are accompanied on board by a person at least 16 years of age.
Those 16 years of age or older may operate any boat on the waters of Michigan. Note: See “Who May Operate a Personal Watercraft (PWC)” below.
Who May Operate a Personal Watercraft (PWC)
Operating Provisions Beginning on October 1, 2011
Those less than 14 years of age may not legally operate a PWC.
Those 14 and 15 years of age may operate a PWC legally only if:
He or she is accompanied on board by his or her parent or legal guardian or by a person at least 21 years of age who has been designated by the parent or legal guardian or …
He or she is operating or riding the PWC at a distance of not more than 100 feet from his or her parent or legal guardian or from a person at least 21 years of age who has been designated by the parent or legal guardian.
Safety Education Requirement
Those 14 years of age or older:
And born after December 31, 1978, may operate a PWC legally only if they have obtained a boating safety certificate.
And born on or before December 31, 1978, may operate a PWC legally without restrictions.
Here are some other Michigan regulations that apply when vessel operators are on the water
Unlawful and Dangerous Operation
Michigan law designates these dangerous operating practices as illegal.
Reckless Operation of a vessel or reckless manipulation of water skis, a surfboard, or similar device is defined as operation which disregards the safety or rights of others or endangers the person or property of others. Some examples are:
Weaving your vessel through congested waterway traffic or swerving at the last possible moment in order to avoid collision
Jumping the wake of another vessel unnecessarily close to the other vessel or when visibility around the other vessel is restricted
Chasing, harassing, or disturbing wildlife with your vessel
Causing damage from the wake of your vessel
Failure To Regulate Speed is operating a vessel at speeds that may cause danger to life or property of any other person or at
speeds that will not permit you to bring your vessel to a safe stop.
It is illegal to operate a vessel:
In excess of 55 mph unless you are at least one mile offshore on the Great Lakes or Lake St. Clair
At greater than “slow, no wake speed” when a person is in the bow of a vessel without proper seating
Faster than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions (weather, vessel traffic, etc.)
“Slow, No Wake Speed” means the slowest speed at which it is still possible to maintain steering and which does not create a wake.
Improper Distance is not maintaining a proper distance while operating a vessel or towing a person. To maintain a proper distance when you are operating at greater than “slow, no wake speed” (except in channels that are not posted), the vessel or persons being towed must not be within 100 feet of:
A shoreline (if operating in water less than three feet deep)
Any moored or anchored vessel
A dock or raft
Any marked swimming area or person(s) in the water
Improper Distance for PWCs means that, if operating at greater than “slow, no wake speed,” PWCs also must:
Stay at least 200 feet from any Great Lakes shoreline.
Not cross within 150 feet behind another vessel other than another PWC.
Improper Direction is defined as the failure to operate in a counterclockwise direction except in areas marked by well-defined channels or rivers.
Boating in Restricted Areas is defined as operating within a restricted area clearly marked by buoys, beacons, diver-down flags, etc.
Riding on the Bow is illegal if the vessel is not equipped with bow seating and the vessel is operating at greater than “slow, no wake speed.” Persons also are not allowed to ride on the gunwale. While underway, persons on a vessel may not sit, stand, or walk on any portion of a vessel not designed for that purpose.
WHAT IS THE LAW FOR PWC? personel water craft
PWC operators must obey additional legal requirements that apply specifically to the operation of personal watercraft on Michigan waters.
Requirements Specific to PWCs
Each person riding on or being towed behind a PWC must wear a U.S. Coast Guard—approved Type I, II, or III PFD. Inflatable PFDs may not be used. See PFD age restrictions.
You may not allow a child under 7 years of age to ride on or be towed behind a PWC unless with a parent or guardian or designee of the parent or guardian.
The lanyard of a PWC’s ignition safety switch must be attached to the person, clothing, or PFD of the operator.
It is illegal to operate a PWC during the period that begins at sunset and ends at 8:00 a.m. “Sunset” means that time determined by the national weather service.
PWCs must be operated in a reasonable and prudent manner at all times. It is illegal to:
Jump the wake of another vessel unnecessarily close to the other vessel.
Weave your PWC through congested traffic.
Swerve at the last possible moment to avoid collision.
A PWC must be operated at “slow, no wake speed” if crossing within 150 feet behind another vessel unless the other vessel is also a PWC.
You may not operate a PWC within 200 feet of a Great Lakes shoreline unless traveling at “slow, no wake speed” perpendicular to the shoreline.
You may not operate a PWC in waters less than two feet deep unless you are operating at “slow, no wake speed” or are docking or launching your PWC.
It is illegal to harass wildlife or disturb aquatic vegetation with your PWC.
Northern Michigan Lawyer, Todd Levitt has been representing clients throughout Central Michigan up to the Upper Peninsula for more than 17 years. If you or someone you know has been charged with Operating a Water Craft Under The Influence of Alcohol or Drugs, contact Todd Levitt today at 989-772-6000.