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Are drunken-boating laws harsh enough to stop repeat offenders?

An interesting article about drunken-boating out of Massachusetts this month could spark some debate among our Florida readers who may start to wonder about our own state laws and whether our statutes really do enough to stop repeat offenders from getting back on the waterways.

Although Massachusetts may have different ways of handling DUI charges, they have a very relatable problem when it comes to how offenders are punished. According to the aforementioned article, residents in the state are worried about drunken-boating laws that do little to stop offenders from repeating the same offense. According to the Coast Guard, lax laws on waterways claimed the lives of 651 people nationwide in recreational boating accidents in 2012. And with all of our waterways here in Florida, it’s not difficult to speculate how many of those accidents happened in our state.

Just like in Massachusetts, Florida’s laws do address boating under the influence but perhaps not to the extent many people would like. As some of our readers might know, those found to be operating a boat while intoxicated -- with a BAC of .08 or higher -- may be fined or spend time in jail for breaking the law. Boating accidents that result in injury or death obviously receive harsher penalties, but some of our readers might be wondering why prosecutors would let things escalate to this point. Wouldn’t license suspension or seizing a person’s watercraft be a more effective way of preventing future accidents?

It’s a question just like this that is also on the minds of Massachusetts residents. Because just like here in Florida, they worry about their safety and the safety of other people. And without provisions in the law to provide this, residents know that more accidents could be just around the corner and more lives will be put in danger as a result.

Source: The Sentinel and Enterprise News, “In Mass., drunken boaters sail through loophole,” Gina Curreri, Jan. 21, 2014

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