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What are the Laws for Drinking and Boating in Ontario

Criminal Charges
jason-baxtorJason Baxter

Yes, we’re only just getting into spring. But, if you’re like us, your thoughts turn to the upcoming summer, hot weather, and everything we can do in it. We are blessed in Ontario with more lakes and rivers to enjoy boating than most places on earth. But very little can ruin summer fun faster than being charged with drinking and boating in Ontario.

What the Law Says

Operating a boat while impaired by alcohol and/or drugs or while your blood alcohol content is equal to or exceeding the legal limit (80 mg or 0.08% or higher) is an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada.

The Penalties for Operating a Boat While Impaired

It’s important to note that the penalties for boating under the influence are the same as they are for operating a motor vehicle on the roads while under the influence. If you are convicted of boating while impaired by alcohol or drugs, you will face the following penalties.

  • First offence – $1,000 mandatory minimum fine and a mandatory minimum 12 month driving prohibition
  • Second offence – mandatory minimum 30 day custodial sentence; mandatory minimum 2 year driving prohibition
  • Third and subsequent offences – mandatory minimum 120 day custodial sentence; mandatory minimum 3 year driving prohibition
  • Ontario’s Ignition Interlock Program also applies to those convicted of drunk boating.

If you are convicted of boating with a blood alcohol content equal to or exceeding the legal limit, you will face the following penalties:

  • On a first offence:
    • If your blood alcohol content is between 80-119: $1,000 mandatory minimum fine and a mandatory minimum 12 month driving prohibition
    • If your blood alcohol content is between 120-159: $1,500 mandatory minimum fine and a mandatory minimum 12 month driving prohibition
    • If your blood alcohol content is over 160:  $2,000 mandatory minimum fine and a mandatory minimum 12 month driving prohibition
  • Second offence – mandatory minimum 30 day custodial sentence; mandatory minimum 2 year driving prohibition
  • Third and subsequent offences – mandatory minimum 120 day custodial sentence; mandatory minimum 3 year driving prohibition

Why Are Minimum Fines the Same as Drinking & Driving?

Boating can seem like it has fewer restrictions, like speed limits. But the consequences of drinking and boating are the same as those for drinking and driving.

  1. People are far more likely to trip and fall overboard when they are drinking.
  2. Boating accidents are usually remote and hard to access for rescue services.
  3. People who are drinking are less likely to wear a PFD (personal floating device). If a weak swimmer under the influence of alcohol ends up in the water without a PFD, they are in far greater danger of drowning.
  4. Alcohol opens up blood vessels close to the skin, increasing body heat loss in cold water, so people who are drinking are more susceptible to hypothermia.
  5. A boat driver under the influence is less likely to notice a missing passenger, let alone take action to save a drowning person.

Additional Consequences of Drinking and Boating

Personal injury, or worse, can be the worst consequence of drinking and boating. But, as a criminal offence, those convicted will also get a criminal record. This can affect their ability to get a job, travel, or even volunteer. A conviction for drinking and boating will result in a driving prohibition and this could affect car insurance rates.

What to Do if You Are Charged with Drinking & Boating

The serious, costly and life-altering consequences of a drinking and boating conviction make it crucial for you to defend your rights in court. X-Copper’s team of former police officers and top traffic ticket defense lawyers are very knowledgeable in defending against drinking and boating charges. They put their experience and knowledge of criminal law, law enforcement and court procedures to work to fight for your rights and get you the best outcome.

To learn more about drinking and driving, check out our post “The Costs of Impaired Driving in Ontario“.

 

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