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If you find yourself facing charges for boating under the influence (OUI) in Arizona, it is important to be aware of the significant repercussions that may follow.

Engaging in the operation of a motorized watercraft while under the influence can lead to harsh penalties such as hefty fines, imprisonment, and the loss of boating privileges. 


The Law Office of Daniel Hutto is a reputable firm that has experience defending individuals against boating OUI charges in Arizona. With their expertise and understanding of state laws, they can provide you with the guidance and support needed to handle the legal system and achieve the best possible outcome for your case.

Don’t face these charges alone – contact the Law Office of Daniel Hutto today for a consultation.

Here’s what this article will cover:

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drinking while boating

Can You Drink and Drive a Boat in AZ?

Arizona law prohibits operating any motorized watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is 0.08%

Similar to the limit for driving vehicles on land. This law applies to all types of boats, including pontoons, motorboats, and jet skis.

What are Arizona’s OUI Laws 

Under ARS §5-395, an OUI charge applies when an individual operates or is in actual physical control of a motorized watercraft while:

  • Impaired by alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicating substances to the slightest degree.
  • Having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher within two hours of operating the watercraft.
  • Under the influence of any drug that impairs the operator’s ability to drive safely.
  • Under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs.

Extreme OUI 

  • Definition: An Extreme OUI is charged when the operator has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15% or higher but less than 0.20%.
  • Penalties: The penalties for Extreme OUI include a minimum jail term of 30 consecutive days, a fine of at least $250, and an additional assessment of $250 to be deposited in the state’s General Fund. There is also a requirement for an alcohol or drug screening, education, or treatment program.

Super Extreme OUI 

  • Definition: A Super Extreme OUI charge applies when the BAC is 0.20% or higher.
  • Penalties: For a Super Extreme OUI, the penalties escalate significantly, including a minimum of 45 consecutive days in jail, a fine of at least $500, and an additional assessment of $1,000 to the state General Fund. The convicted individual must also undergo an alcohol or drug screening, education, or treatment program.

Aggravated OUI 

  • Definition: An OUI becomes aggravated under several scenarios, including committing a third OUI offense within seven years, operating a watercraft during a period of suspended, canceled, revoked, or refused driving privileges, or committing an OUI offense while there is a passenger under 15 years of age on board.
  • Penalties: Aggravated OUI is a class 4 felony if it involves a third offense within seven years or operating with a suspended/revoked license, with mandatory prison time that can extend from 4 months to 3.75 years for first-time felony offenders. If the offense involves a minor under 15, it is treated as a class 6 felony, potentially leading to prison terms ranging from 4 months to 2 years.

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open container on boat

Can You Have an Open Container on a Boat or Motorized Watercraft

While Arizona does not specifically prohibit open containers on boats, it is illegal to operate the boat while impaired to the slightest degree.

Passengers can legally consume alcohol on board, but the responsibility lies with the operator to remain sober.

What are Your Rights During an OUI Stop 

Here’s a breakdown of the key rights you hold if you’re stopped for a suspected OUI on Arizona’s waterways.

Right to Remain Silent

You have the right to remain silent, which means you are not obligated to answer questions about your activities or alcohol consumption that could self-incriminate.

While you must provide identification and boat registration, you can politely decline to answer further questions without legal counsel. 

Right to Refuse Field Sobriety and Portable Breathalyzer Tests

You also retain the right to refuse field sobriety tests and portable breathalyzer tests without automatic penalties. Unlike road traffic DUI laws where refusal can lead to immediate penalties, boating law enforcement allows for this refusal.

However, it’s important to note that such a refusal might lead to your arrest based on other observed signs of impairment.

Right to Legal Representation

If you are detained or arrested, you can insist on consulting with a DUI attorney or an OUI defense lawyer before deciding to undergo any chemical tests such as breath, blood, or urine tests.

Right to Be Informed of the Consequences of Refusing Chemical Tests

The law also mandates that you be informed of the consequences of refusing chemical tests following an arrest. Under Arizona’s implied consent law, applicable more broadly to motorized vehicle operation, refusing a chemical test post-arrest can result in more severe repercussions, including the suspension of boating privileges. Understanding these consequences is essential in making informed decisions that can significantly impact your legal situation.

Right to a Reasonable Stop

Finally, the legality of the stop itself is a fundamental right. The stopping officer must have reasonable suspicion that you are operating under the influence. If the stop was made without reasonable cause, any evidence collected could potentially be excluded from court proceedings, which is a critical aspect of your defense strategy.

refusal of field sobriety tests

Can You Refuse a Field Sobriety Test

In Arizona, if you are stopped for suspected Operating Under the Influence (OUI) while operating a boat, you might wonder about your rights concerning field sobriety tests. 

Right to Refuse Field Sobriety Tests

You have the right to refuse to participate in field sobriety tests. These tests are designed to assess your physical and cognitive abilities and can include tasks like standing on one leg, walking in a straight line, or horizontally tracking an object with your eyes.

Unlike chemical tests, there are no statutory penalties (such as automatic suspension of boating privileges) strictly tied to the refusal of field sobriety tests.

However, refusing these tests does not guarantee that you won’t be arrested if other evidence of impairment is present.

Consequences of Refusing Sobriety Tests

While you can refuse field sobriety tests without direct legal penalties, such as license suspension, it’s important to note that refusal might lead law enforcement to believe there is more reason to suspect impairment. This could lead to further actions, including arrest based on observed behavior or other evidence such as open containers or witness statements.

Chemical Test Rights and Obligations

Under Arizona’s implied consent law, once you are arrested, you are deemed to have consented to chemical testing (blood, breath, or urine) 

Refusal to submit to these tests post-arrest can lead to serious consequences, including the automatic suspension of your boating and driving privileges and can be used as evidence against you in court.

What are Defenses to an OUI Charge 

When facing an Operating Under the Influence (OUI) charge in Arizona, there are several defense strategies that can be employed. These defenses can challenge the circumstances surrounding the arrest, the evidence presented, and the procedures followed by law enforcement.

Improper Stop

  • Explanation: This defense argues that the law enforcement officer did not have a valid reason, or probable cause, to initiate the stop of the watercraft. If the stop was unjustified, any evidence gathered as a result of that stop might be deemed inadmissible in court.
  • Application: If it can be shown that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion of impairment or violation of boating laws, the case might be dismissed.

Inaccuracy of Sobriety Testing

  • Explanation: This defense targets the reliability of the field sobriety tests and BAC tests used by officers. Issues such as improper administration of tests, the subjective nature of some assessments, or improper calibration of breathalyzer devices can be grounds for challenging the results.
  • Application: Demonstrating that the testing was flawed, either through procedural errors or faulty equipment, can lead to the exclusion of this evidence.

Lack of Impairment

  • Explanation: Even if alcohol or drugs were present in the operator’s system, it must also be proven that the operator was actually impaired to the point of being unable to operate the watercraft safely.
  • Application: Evidence such as video footage from the arrest, witness testimony, or contradictory evidence from blood tests can support the claim that the operator was not impaired.

Medical Conditions

  • Explanation: Certain medical conditions can mimic the signs of intoxication. Conditions such as hypoglycemia, neurological disorders, or even fatigue can cause poor performance on sobriety tests or produce symptoms similar to those caused by alcohol or drug use.
  • Application: Medical records and expert testimony can be used to demonstrate that such a condition, not alcohol or drug use, was responsible for the behavior leading to the arrest.

Rising Blood Alcohol Concentration

  • Explanation: This defense is based on the timing of the BAC testing. Alcohol levels continue to rise in the bloodstream for a period after drinking has stopped, potentially meaning that the BAC was below the legal limit while operating the boat but rose to an illegal level by the time testing occurred.
  • Application: If the test was conducted significantly after the time of operation, this argument might be utilized to challenge the assumption that the BAC was above the legal limit at the time of operating the watercraft.

Unlawful Detention or Arrest

  • Explanation: This defense argues that the operator’s rights were violated through improper or excessive detention or arrest procedures.
  • Application: If law enforcement failed to adhere to legal standards for arrest or unnecessarily detained the operator without justification, this could lead to a reduction or dismissal of charges.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a first-time OUI considered a misdemeanor in Arizona?

Yes, a first-time OUI without aggravating factors is typically treated as a Class 1 misdemeanor in Arizona. However, penalties can escalate to felony levels for aggravated OUI cases, such as when there are prior offenses, a minor on board, or if it involves serious injury or death.

What are the penalties for a misdemeanor OUI in Arizona?

The penalties for a misdemeanor OUI can include jail time, fines, mandatory alcohol education courses, and suspension of boating privileges. Specifically, jail time can range from 24 hours to six months, depending on the circumstances of the offense and any prior convictions.

How can an experienced OUI attorney help in my defense against a boating DUI charge?

An experienced OUI defense attorney can challenge the evidence and the manner in which it was obtained to negotiate with prosecutors for reduced charges or penalties. 

Can I be charged with an OUI for operating a non-motorized watercraft under the influence in Arizona?

No, Arizona’s OUI laws specifically pertain to the operation of motorized watercraft. Non-motorized watercraft such as kayaks, canoes, or paddleboards are not subject to the same regulations concerning operating under the influence.

What constitutes an “extreme OUI” and how does it differ from a “super extreme OUI”?

An “extreme OUI” in Arizona is charged when the operator’s BAC is between 0.15% and 0.199%. A “super extreme OUI” involves a BAC of 0.20% or higher. Both carry heavier penalties than a standard OUI, including longer jail time and higher fines.

What happens if I am arrested for an OUI while already having a previous OUI conviction?

If you are arrested for an OUI and already have a previous OUI conviction, the new charges could be escalated to an aggravated level, which is a felony. This could result in more severe penalties, including longer jail time, higher fines, and extended suspension or permanent revocation of boating privileges.

How long could I be in jail for a felony OUI in Arizona?

For a felony OUI, such as an aggravated OUI, jail time can range from a minimum of four months to several years, depending on the specific circumstances, including the number of prior offenses and the presence of any aggravating factors.

Can an OUI charge affect my driving license?

Yes, in Arizona, an OUI charge can affect your driving license. Although OUI pertains to watercraft, the consequences of a conviction can extend to your driving privileges, including potential suspension or revocation depending on the severity of the offense and any concurrent road vehicle DUI convictions.

Contact an Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney

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If you’re facing an Operating Under the Influence (OUI) charge or other criminal charges in Arizona, it’s important to seek professional legal assistance. 

Daniel Hutto is an experienced criminal defense attorney who specializes in OUI and DUI offenses. His practice is dedicated to providing thorough and effective legal representation for various criminal cases. and holding law enforcement accountable.

Contact us today at 602 536-7878. for a consultation. We’ll advocate for your rights, guide you through the process, and help you pursue the justice you deserve.

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