Drink or Drug Driving Boat and Vessel Penalties and Laws in NSW

Jimmy Singh and Poppy Morandin.

A 26-year-old man who feel overboard his vessel has been charged with operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol after being rescued by police. 

The man from Woy Woy was on a video call to his family whilst driving his aluminium runabout in Brisbane Water off Koolewong when he fell overboard. 

Emergency services were notified and officers from Brisbane Water Police Area Command responded.

A member of the public assisted in helping officers board the man’s vessel. 

With the assistance of the Marine Area Command, officers then conducted a large water search.

Shortly after, the man was located adrift in the water off Point Clare, nearly 4km from his starting position. 

When he was rescued, he was subject to a breath test which returned a positive result. 

He was subsequently arrested and taken to Woy Woy Police Station. 

A breath analysis was conducted which returned an alleged reading of 0.168.

He was charged with operate vessel with high range PCA and is due to appear at Gosford Local Court on Thursday 7 April 2022.

As reported by the Centre for Maritime Safety, excess alcohol was a major or secondary cause in association with 8.1% of the 123 fatal boating incidents recorded in the 10 years to 30 June 2020.

Incidents linked to excess alcohol are highly seasonal, with most occurring in the spring/summer period.

The Marine Safety Act 1998 (NSW) provides a scheme for regulating drugs and alcohol when ‘operating’ a vessel that is substantially similar to that provided under the road transport legislation for drink driving offences.

Drink or Drug Driving on Boat Penalties and Laws in NSW

The rules and laws on police conducting random breath tests, or police stopping and searching you on a road are similar to boats on waters in NSW. Police cannot breath test you on your boat if your boat is at home or is anchored anywhere else. Police are not allowed to conduct a breath analysis of you outside the two hours period from when you were stopped or last operated the vessel.

Drink Driving Boat Penalties and Disqualifications

Offences involving having a presence of prescribed concentration of alcohol in one’s breath or blood whilst operating a vessel are outlined in section 24

The Act defines a ‘vessel’ as including watercraft of any description used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water.

Those who are under 18 years of age must have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.00 when operating a vessel. 

The offence classified as ‘novice range’ PCA is applicable where a person under 18 years old operates a vessel in any waters with a blood alcohol concentration from 0.00 – 0.019.

An offence of ‘special range’ PCA applies where those under the age of 18, or those who are operating a vessel for commercial purposes have a blood alcohol concentration from 0.02 to 0.049. 

To be classified as ‘low range’, the applicable blood alcohol concentration is from 0.05 to 0.079.

All offences of novice-range, special-range or low-range drink driving on a boat have a maximum penalty of $1,100 fine, and 3 months disqualification of licence in the case of a first offence, and a $2,200 fine with 6 months licence disqualification in the case of a second or subsequent offence.

To be classified as ‘mid-range’, the applicable blood alcohol concentration is from 0.080 to 0.149.

The maximum penalty applicable for mid-range is a $2,200 fine and/or 9 months imprisonment and 6 months licence disqualification period in the case of a first offence, and a $3,300 fine and/or 12 months’ imprisonment with 12 months licence disqualification in the case of a second or subsequent offence

Furthermore, the offence of high range PCA is applicable where a person who operates a vessel in any waters has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.150 or higher.

The maximum penalty applicable for high-range is a $3,300 fine and/or 18 months’ imprisonment with 12 months licence disqualification in the case of a first offence, and a $5,500 fine and/or 2 years imprisonment in addition to 2 years licence disqualification in the case of a second or subsequent offence.

Drug Driving Boat Penalties and Disqualifications

It is illegal to operate a boat or vessel in any waters in NSW while you have present in your oral fluid, blood or urine any prescribed illicit drug, according to section 25 Marine Safety Act 1998 (NSW).

The maximum penalty is $1,100 and 6 months disqualification of licence for a first offence of drug driving on a boat, and $2,200 with 12 months licence disqualification for a second or subsequent offence.

The maximum penalty is $1,100 for a first offence with 6 months licence disqualification, and $2,200 with 12 months licence disqualification for a second offence, for operating a boat while you have morphine in your blood or urine (unless it was for medical purposes that you had taken the morphine for).

In addition, there is an alternative offence of operating a boat or vessel in any waters while under the influence of alcohol or any other drug without the requirement for police to prove the extent of your impairment in the way other drink driving offences do with low, mid and high range, according to section 26 Marine Safety Act 1998 (NSW). 

The maximum penalty for operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or other drugs is $2,200 fine and/or 9 months imprisonment with 6 months licence disqualification for a first offence, or $3,300 fine and/or 12 months’ imprisonment with 12 months licence disqualification for a second offence.

The maximum penalty for the master of a vessel who permits a person to operate a vessel in any waters while that other person operating it is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs is $2,200 fine and/or 9 months’ imprisonment for a first offence, or $3,300 fine and/or 12 months’ imprisonment for a second offence.

Will My Drink Driving on a Boat Offence Affect My Car Driver Licence?

Getting your boat vessel licence disqualified from being convicted for drink driving on a boat does not impact your normal car driver licence. This also means that getting your normal driver licence disqualified from a drink driving conviction will not affect your boat licence. However, your driver licence can include your boat licence, but being convicted, suspended, disqualified or cancelled for anyone will not impact the other whatsoever.

For example, if your boat licence has been disqualified from a boat drink driving conviction, your normal driver licence to drive a motor vehicle on a road will not be affected which means you can continue driving a car.

Can a boat drink driving conviction be considered a second offence if I have a previous drink driving motor vehicle conviction? Short answer is no, it is not considered a second or subsequent offence.

Questions? Get in touch with our drink driving lawyers Sydney based solicitors today.

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