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Know Virginia law on alcohol, boating and summer fun with kids

Summer finally seems to be on its way, so we thought now would be a good time to cover some dos and don’ts of enjoying alcoholic beverages during summer activities — especially when you’re with kids. As you may already know, Virginia law considers boating under the influence of alcohol to be the exact same offense as DUI involving a car, motorcycle or truck. Here are a few other tips about mixing alcohol or drugs with outdoor fun.

Spearfishing, surfing and scuba

The Virginia statutes against boating under the influence, or BUI, also prohibit operating any type of watercraft — or take part in some related activities — while intoxicated. It’s a Class 1 misdemeanor to be in control of water skis, surf boards, or any similar device after using alcohol or drugs, or to take part in scuba diving, skin diving or even spearfishing if your intoxication causes you to do so recklessly. Conviction on a Class 1 misdemeanor could get you up to a year in jail and/or a fine of $2,500.

The penalties go way up if you get into an accident as a result of your BUI and someone is seriously injured or dies. After an injury, you could be charged with “maiming, etc., of another resulting from operating a watercraft while intoxicated,” which is a Class 6 felony. A fatality could be charged as involuntary manslaughter, a Class 5 felony, or even aggravated involuntary manslaughter. Class 6 felonies are punishable by up to 5 years behind bars; Class 5 felonies by up to 10; and aggravated involuntary manslaughter by up to 20.

Kids and intoxication don’t mix

Of course, it’s illegal in Virginia for kids under 21 to drink alcohol, but you can get into big trouble if you’re intoxicated and take them out on a boat. Just like with DUI on the roadways, having a minor age 17 or younger on board while you’re BUI increases the penalties you face. In addition to your base BUI sentence, a mandatory 5-day jail sentence and a fine of between $500 and $1,000 will be added — even more if this is a second offense.

Virginia is a great place to enjoy the outdoors, but it’s important to be aware that using alcohol or drugs during some summer activities isn’t just illegal — it’s risky, too. Stay safe out there!

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