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Tragedy brings boating under the influence into the spotlight

Recently, major league baseball fans in Louisiana and around the world were startled to learn of a boating accident that took the life of pitcher Jose Fernandez. While initial indications are that alcohol did not appear to be a factor, the public can expect that toxicology reports will be released soon to confirm that the athlete and his companions were not boating under the influence. Nevertheless, the U.S. Coast Guard has issued a reminder of the dangers of alcohol use on the waters.

Driving a car under the influence of alcohol is dangerous because alcohol impairs a person's judgment and slows his or her reflexes. On the open waters, however, the effects of alcohol may be increased because of the movement of the water, the sun, wind and vibrations of the boat. A boat operator may lose balance and coordination more quickly and have more difficulty with vision and reaction than when drinking on land. He or she may also become sleepy more suddenly.

If the Coast Guard concludes that the operator of a boat is under the influence of alcohol, that person may be arrested and held. Thereafter, he or she may be turned over to state or local police. In addition, the person risks having his or her boat impounded. If the person is convicted of operating a boat while intoxicated, serious and long-lasting penalties typically apply.

Because the effects of alcohol often mimic the natural effects of being on water, it is possible that some who are boating for pleasure may be mistaken for boating under the influence. A person in Louisiana who is detained by the Coast Guard or other authorities would do well to contact an attorney. Retaining an experienced defense team as quickly as possible after one's arrest will allow one to build a strong case against the proffered evidence.

Source: usstrong.com, "Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents", Sept. 28, 2016

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