Washington State and Tacoma BUI
  Boating Under The Influence
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123 Main St.
Tacoma, WA 98402

Tacoma BUI Attorney Information


Civil Penalty Procedures

(a) After notice and an opportunity for a hearing, a person found by the Secretary to have violated this subtitle or a regulation prescribed under this subtitle for which a civil penalty is provided, is liable to the United States Government for the civil penalty provided. The amount of the civil penalty shall be assessed by the Secretary by written notice. In determining the amount of the penalty, the Secretary shall consider the nature, circumstances, extent, and gravity of the prohibited acts committed and, with respect to the violator, the degree of culpability, any history of prior offenses, ability to pay, and other matters that justice requires. (b) The Secretary may compromise, modify, or remit, with or without consideration, a civil penalty under this subtitle until the assessment is referred to the Attorney General. (c) If a person fails to pay an assessment of a civil penalty after it has become final, the Secretary may refer the matter to the Attorney General for collection in an appropriate district court of the United States.

Operation of Vessels Generally

A person operating a vessel in a negligent manner or interfering with the safe operation of a vessel, so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of a person is liable to the United States Government for a civil penalty of not more than $5,000 in the case of a recreational vessel, or $25,000 in the case of any other vessel.
A person operating a vessel in a grossly negligent manner that endangers the life, limb, or property of a person commits a misdemeanor.
An individual who is under the influence of alcohol, or dangerous drug in violation of a law of the United States when operating a vessel, as determined under standards prescribed by the Secretary by regulation:
is liable to the United States Government for a civil penalty of not more than $5,000; or commits a class A misdemeanor.
Once the assigned hearing officer has made a determination as to what he or she believes the appropriate fine to be, a letter is sent to the accused operator. This letter must include the following information:
It must set forth the alleged violation and the applicable law or regulations violated
The amount of the maximum penalty that may be assessed for each violation;
The amount of the proposed penalty that appears to be appropriate;
A statement that payment of the proposed penalty within 45 days will settle the case;

The legal limit before the United States Coast Guard hearings is 0.08. An operator is under the influence when they have a BAC of 0.08 or more in their blood; or the individual is operating any vessel and the effect of the intoxicants consumed can be detected in their manner, disposition, speech, muscular movement, general appearance, and/or muscle movement. Acceptable evidence of an operator being under the influence includes: personal observations of the individual's manner, disposition, speech, muscular movement, general appearance, behavior, and/or a chemical test.

The Hearing Process

The hearing process itself is quite informal. Since the hearing is administrative in nature of the rules of evidence and other statutory objections are traditionally inapplicable before a Coast Guard Hearing Officer. These are informal hearings where the hearing officer will listen and consider all arguments before issuing his or her ruling.
The matters are recorded. However, no formal admission of the police report is conducted. After setting forth the allegations and the proposed fine, the attorney is allowed to make all and any arguments which could reasonably be supported by the law, the facts, and one's ethics. Typically, no testimony is taken However, the client is not precluded from testifying. Should he or she choose to do so, they will be sworn in and testify under oath. Should he or she choose to testify, he or she are subject to direct examination by the Hearing Officer. Rulings are not typically made until several months after the hearing.
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