With the abundance of lakes and rivers that we have in Ontario, boating is a common past-time enjoyed by many. Whether for fishing, water-skiing, or plain relaxing, being on a boat is a great way to spend a hot summer day. However, this is where some get a bit too comfortable. Hot summer day, you said? Why not bring some ice cold beers along for the boat ride? Wrong! There is a lot more to it.
Firstly, the definition of a “vessel” can be found in S.214 of the Criminal Code of Canada and is construed broadly. Meaning, a vessel can include a sea-doo, kayak, canoe, sailboat, dinghy, and inflatable rafts. If the boat has a motor, it need not be running in order for an individual to be convicted of drinking and boating. Impaired operation of a vessel can include circumstances where the boat is simply drifting and the motor is off.
To clear up some confusion, boat operators face the same “Impaired Driving / Driving with Excess Blood Alcohol” penalties as those faced by drivers of motor vehicles. Also, keep in mind that drinking and boating will ALWAYS result in the suspension of your driver’s licence.
Boaters caught with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in the “warn rage” (between 50 and 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood) will face an immediate driver’s license suspension. The length of the suspension varies based on whether or not it is their first offence. See below:
Second Offence (within 5 years)
Third Offence (within 5 years)
Subsequent infractions (within 5 years)
Keep in mind, the penalties described above are only for those blowing in the “warn range”. The penalties described above are not criminal in nature, rather they are considered “Provincial Offences”. These suspensions take effect immediately and cannot be appealed. Further, these suspensions are recorded on your driver’s abstract and are considered when determining the consequences for subsequent infractions. Remember, a suspension for blowing in the “warn range” applies to the persons driver’s license as well.
If the boater fails the “Approved Screening Device”, then the officer has grounds to arrest the boater and take them to the local police station to obtain two samples of their breath into a breathalyzer. If both of these samples show that the accused party’s ‘blood alcohol concentration’ (B.A.C) was over 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, then the charge of “Boating with Excess Blood Alcohol/Over 80” will be laid.
This will result in the following:
If the boater refuses to provide a sample of their breath into either of these devices, the boater will be charged criminally with the offence of “Refusal to Provide a Sample”. This offence carries with it, the same penalty as being charged with “Impaired Driving and/or Driving with Excess Blood Alcohol” as noted above.
In Ontario, there are specific requirements relating to the consumption and transportation of alcohol.
According to the Ontario Liquor Licence Act, it is illegal to transport alcoholic beverages in a boat unless it is in a container that is unopened and the seal unbroken, unless the alcohol is reasonably stowed (in baggage or a closed compartment) and is not readily available to anyone.
Further, no alcohol can be consumed by anyone on board while a boat is underway. Consumption is only permitted if the following requirements are met:
The lesson: Boat operators should stay sober while on the water! Enjoy a cold beverage once back on shore or once all of the legal requirements for consuming alcohol on your boat are satisfied.