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Maryland legislators vote on sailing and drinking

Sailing is a popular activity in Maryland. For many people, there is no better way to spend a nice day than out on the deck of their boat with a drink in hand. However, Maryland sailors may have to reconsider drinking while they boat if recently proposed legislation gets passed.

State Sen. James Brochin has proposed Senate Bill 74 which would make it illegal for people operating a nonmotorized sailboat to be intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol. A drunk boating law that was passed in 2010 was accidentally only applied to motorized boats, so operators of nonmotorized boats were able to drink freely while sailing.

The bill proposes that a person caught impaired by alcohol or drugs while operating a sailboat for the first time could wind up spending two months in jail and paying a $500 fine. Someone who is found to have a blood-alcohol content level of 0.08 or more while operating a sailboat could face a year in prison and be ordered to pay a fine of up to $1,000.

The state Senate recently passed the bill 38-7, but some people felt the bill needed to be more comprehensive. The main reason the bill was proposed was to prevent the Department of Natural Resources from having to spend money to help stranded boaters who have been drinking legally. Some, however, have questioned how often this is actually a problem for the DNR. It will be interesting to see if the bill becomes law.

Maryland sailboaters may not like the idea of not being able to drink while operating their sailboats. However, it's important to always keep the law in mind. Right now, it is legal for operators of nonmotorized boats to consume alcohol, but that could change. Staying aware of the law can mean the difference between a nice day of sailing and an expensive fine or jail time.

Source: Huffington Post, "Maryland Drunken Sailor Legislation: Bill Would Close 'Drunken Boating' Loophole," Alex Jackson, Feb. 11, 2013

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