During the warm weather months, many people in Arizona will flock to the lakes around our state. Visitors to the lakes often trail boats, jet skis and Sea Doos to enjoy their days on the water. Unfortunately, many individuals also choose to consume alcohol while operating their boats and place themselves at risk of being arrested for a boating DUI.
Because of the need to ensure the safety of people who visit the lakes in Arizona as well as the dangers caused by consuming alcohol while operating a boat, police are constantly on the lookout for people who might be impaired while operating a motorized watercraft. Impairment may be suspected after an individual is contacted at a checkpoint, observed committing a moving violation or operating a boat in an unsafe manner.
Once someone is stopped on the lakes by police, officers will look for signs of alcohol consumption similar to that in an automobile. This might include slurred speech, an odor of intoxicating beverage, red and blood shot eyes and poor balance. To further their boating DUI investigation and potentially gather more evidence, police will ask you to participate in the standard field sobriety tests.
Field Sobriety Testing and Boating DUI's:
Field Sobriety Tests, including Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, the Walk and Turn test and the One Leg Stand were developed through studies sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to assist officers in DUI investigations to determine whether a driver might be impaired by alcohol. Other tests routinely employed by officers include the finger count, finger to nose and Rhomberg Modified exam. Except for the nystagmus, or better known as the eye test (which aims to detect possible neurological impairment by the involuntary jerking of the eyes), the field sobriety tests are designed to make someone divide their attention and perform both physical and mental tasks at the same time. This is because people must perform a variety of tasks when driving a car such as maintaining. safe speed, obeying traffic control signals, keeping within one lane, using signals and reacting to roadway events.
Some of the limitations concerning the field sobriety tests rests with how and where they are administered. Specifically, the field tests should be given in a safe place, away from moving vehicles and on a flat level surface. People who are over 62 years of age, who are overweight by 50 or more pounds or who suffer from physical difficulties are not good candidates for these field sobriety tests.
Obviously, administering a field sobriety tests on a boat during a boating DUI investigation presents many issues which could be used to defend against a boating DUI charge. Specifically, a boat could never be made stationary. Consequently, the rocking caused by a boat sitting in the water will cause balance difficulties regardless of whether someone has consumed or is impaired by alcohol. Therefore, it will be impossible to determine whether any errors made during performance of the field testing is due to alcohol impairment or alternatively, difficulty in balancing oneself on a rocking boat. Because of this, the reliability of an officer's conclusions following administration of field sobriety tests on a boat can be attaked very easily. Moreover, a person suspected of a boating DUI should not agree to perform field tests on a vessel as the results obtained by an officer will not be credible.