Legislation Extending BUI Chemical Testing to Non-motorized Vessels Passes First Committee

Legislation will pass the Senate Public Safety Committee today to amend California's Boating Under the Influence [BUI] law that authorizes an officer to request a person arrested for BUI to submit to chemical testing.

SB 1247 [Gaines] would delete the requirement that the vessel be mechanically propelled.

Following is the author's stated rationale for the measure [from the policy committee analysis]:

"The Harbors and Navigation Code contains no definition of "machinery" and a vague definition of "mechanically propelled." California Boating Law gives an officer authority to request the operator of a "mechanically propelled vessel" submit to the chemical testing of their blood, breath, or urine if lawfully arrested for operating a vessel or other equipment while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.  The problem is an operator of a 30-foot sailboat with no motor, operating under sail at 20 knots, with an BAC level .10% stopped for a boating violation and arrested can refuse the officer's request for a chemical test since there is question as to whether the sailboat is a "mechanically propelled vessel.”

"Law enforcement should be able ask an arrested person to provide a chemical test of an operator of a sailing craft that could cause major damage, injure someone, or cause death.  Boating officers are under the assumption that a sail is "machinery" just as an "oar" is for a canoe or kayak.  There is a lack of clarity as to whether operators of vessels or craft using a sail, paddle, etc. can be asked to submit to chemical testing. Sailing vessels with or without motors piloted by a person under the influence create a safety issue for all boaters."

SB 1247 next proceeds

The measure is sponsored by the California State Sheriffs’ Association.