Cape Cod’s connection with the sea gives it a rich history with the boating industry. Inhabitants have a deep connection with boating as a result. Boating safety and the prevention of boating accidents have always been a major concern for many Cape Cod residents. Consequently, the ramifications of boating while intoxicated have been in the news of late. The South Coast Today reported that Cape Cod constituents have requested that a local Cape Cod politician reintroduce several bills to the Massachusetts House of Representatives that would strengthen the Boating Under the Influence (BUI) laws.
The two bills, H1658 and H1659, aim to apply the same results for operating a motor vehicle under the influence (OUI) as for operating a motor boat under the influence (BUI). Currently, Massachusetts has two separate statutes for a BUI and an OUI. Supporters of the new bills hope they will fix some perceived weaknesses of the laws. For example, a BUI is not listed on a motor vehicle record, and without pulling a criminal history it is hard to determine whether an individual has a BUI. Furthermore, there is no way to prevent an individual with multiple OUIs or BUIs from registering or operating a boat. In Massachusetts, a boat operator does not need a license to operate a boat, but they are required to register their vessels. There is nothing preventing someone with several BUI or OUI charges from purchasing and registering any number of boats.
This problem has been highlighted in some high profile BUI cases. For instance, during a 2009 Independence Day celebration, an intoxicated Cape Cod man steered his boat into a secured fireworks area. Authorities were able to stop the operator and charge him with a BUI. It surfaced in the press that the operator already had five convictions for drunk driving and seven more for operating a boat intoxicated. Astonishingly, he had been able to purchase and register the same boat he steered into the fireworks area. Massachusetts was able to prevent him from operating a car intoxicated as he had previously lost his driver’s license for life; however, there was nothing to prevent him from registering and driving his boat. Continue reading