Field Sobriety Tests in Boating DUI: A Look at Arizona's Boating DUI Checkpoints

Investigative Article: The Use and Effectiveness of Field Sobriety Tests in Boating DUI Cases

Boating is a popular recreational activity, especially in states like Arizona where there are numerous waterways. However, just like driving under the influence (DUI), operating a boat while intoxicated is a criminal offense. To combat and deter boating under the influence (BUI), law enforcement agencies conduct boating DUI checkpoints, much like roadside sobriety checkpoints for drivers. This article aims to investigate the use and effectiveness of field sobriety tests in boating DUI cases, particularly in Arizona.

The Legality of Boating DUI Checkpoints in Arizona

In Arizona, boating DUI checkpoints are legally upheld and conducted fairly under guidelines set by the United States Coast Guard. The guidelines ensure that checkpoints are established in a neutral location where boaters can easily stop and launch their boats, have adequate lighting, and clear signage indicating that the checkpoint is for boating under the influence purposes only. Additionally, sobriety tests must be conducted in a non-discriminatory manner, meaning every boater who passes through the checkpoint must be tested for signs of impairment.

The Purpose of Field Sobriety Tests in Boating DUI Cases

The primary purpose of field sobriety tests during boating DUI checkpoints is to assess a boater's level of impairment. Field sobriety tests are conducted on-site and without the use of a breathalyzer to determine if a boater appears intoxicated and should be administered a chemical test – such as breath, blood or urine test – to confirm the presence of alcohol or drugs above the legal limit. In the absence of a breathalyzer, law enforcement officers use standard field sobriety tests to determine if a boater is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The Types of Field Sobriety Tests Used in Boating DUI Cases

The most common types of field sobriety tests used in boating DUI cases are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test, Walk and Turn Test, and One Leg Stand Test. The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test involves checking the involuntary movement of the eyeballs. The Walk and Turn Test requires the boater to take nine heel-to-toe steps, turn, and take nine more steps back. The One Leg Stand Test involves standing on one foot for 30 seconds.

The Effectiveness of Field Sobriety Tests in Boating DUI Cases

Field sobriety tests have been found to be effective in detecting impairment in drivers, but their effectiveness in boating DUI cases is not yet well established. Studies have shown that the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test, when performed correctly, can be a reliable indicator of alcohol impairment. However, the Walk and Turn Test and One Leg Stand Test have been found to have low reliability relative to the detection of alcohol impairment. Furthermore, field sobriety tests are subjective, and individual factors such as age, medical conditions, and physical limitations can affect the results.

The Consequences of Failing a Field Sobriety Test in Boating DUI Cases

If a boater fails a field sobriety test, they may be subjected to chemical testing to confirm their level of impairment. If the results indicate the presence of drugs or alcohol above the legal limit, the boater may face criminal charges and the revocation of their boating license. Additionally, penalties for boating DUI offenses can include fines, community service, jail time, and mandatory courses on operating a boat safely and responsibly.

The Importance of Boating Responsibly

Operating a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol can not only result in criminal charges but can also endanger the lives of the boater and others on the water. It is important to follow boating safety guidelines and avoid operating a boat under the influence. Boaters should also be aware of the signs of intoxication and test themselves before heading out onto the water.

The Bottom Line

Field sobriety tests are an important tool used by law enforcement agencies in boating DUI cases to assess a boater's level of impairment. While some tests have been found to be effective, their reliability in detecting alcohol impairment is limited. Boaters need to be aware of the consequences of operating a boat under the influence and the importance of boating responsibly.


Field Sobriety Tests in Boating DUI Cases-Arizona