Together with local police departments along the coast of Maine, the U.S. Coast Guard has announced a “heightened enforcement” period for its campaign against boating under the influence (BUI), Operation Dry Water. The heightened enforcement period comes on the weekend following July 4 and aims to keep the waterways of Maine safe from intoxicated boaters.
However, the pressure these initiatives can put on rank-and-file officers can lead to innocent people getting arrested and charged for operating under the influence (OUI), all so the police can pad their arrest numbers and claim the campaign is a success.
Operation Dry Water is billed as an outreach and awareness campaign by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), the U.S. Coast Guard, and participating local law enforcement agencies. The goal is to decrease the number of alcohol-related deaths that happen on the country’s waterways – something they claim is the leading factor in recreational boater deaths.
According to the Coast Guard’s figures, the number of fatalities since the inauguration of Operation Dry Water in 2009 has fallen from 736 to 658 in 2017. However, those figures also show that, in the same amount of time, there have been around one million fewer recreational boat registrations in the U.S.
While the campaign stresses its interest in education, awareness, and deterrence, the latter goal seems to be the focus of the campaign and stresses the detection and arrest of boaters who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Giving this away is the emphasis on the campaign’s cooperation between Coast Guard officials and local law enforcement agencies – both of whom are in charge of arresting and charging drunk or drugged boaters rather than “raising awareness” through other channels.
Recently, Operation Dry Water announced that it would be conducting its annual “heightened enforcement” period for the weekend of July Fourth – this year falling on July 6-7.
During this time, boaters in Maine can expect to see more Coast Guard patrols in the ocean and bays as well as a heightened police presence on the inland waterways, ponds, and rivers. Police say they are especially interested in detecting drugged boating and the illegal possession of marijuana in the lead-up to Maine’s legalization of the drug for recreational purposes.
An arrest and charge for boating under the influence is a severe criminal allegation that can have dire repercussions if not defended against. There are fines, potential jail time, and license suspensions that come with a conviction, especially if they involve aggravating factors like an especially high blood alcohol content or other reckless conduct. That license suspension can affect your boating license and as a criminal conviction, can trickle down and create employment problems where you’re required to maintain a clean record.
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