Liquor and Lake Lanier often don’t mix well. Just ask the Department of Natural Resources.
DNR made 11 arrests for boating under the influence between Saturday, May 22, and Sunday, May 23, and booked them in to the Hall County Jail.
The department’s spokesman Mark McKinnon said there was no crackdown on the lake this past weekend and no special emphasis to catch boaters under the influence.
“They just caught more impaired operators than usual,” McKinnon said. “I hope it demonstrates that we will not tolerate drunk boating. It is just too dangerous.”
But what are the laws regarding alcohol and boating?
What if I’m not steering the boat?
McKinnon said passengers on boats who are 21 or older can have a blood alcohol content over .08, which is the legal limit for drivers on the road and on the open water.
If the person operating the boat is over .08, it is considered boating under the influence. When the boat driver is under 21, the limit is .02.
That runs the gamut from speedboats to Jet Skis to sailboats to sailboards.
McKinnon said it is not applicable for people floating in inflatable tubes. A 2016 bill made that change as long as the homemade or inflatable rafts are used “no more than 100 feet from shore on a lake, pond, or other non-flowing body of water,” according to the law’s revision.
“However, the game wardens can arrest someone for public drunkenness if they believe the person is creating an unsafe or hostile situation for themselves or others,” McKinnon said.
Alcohol is not allowed at most parks on Lake Lanier.
What are the consequences if I get caught?
Beyond putting other people’s safety in danger, people arrested for boating under the influence can be charged with a misdemeanor. Misdemeanors in Georgia are punishable with a maximum $1,000 fine, a maximum year behind bars or both.
DNR said people arrested for boating under the influence may lose their privilege to “operate a boat or personal watercraft until they complete a DUI alcohol or drug use risk reduction program approved by the Department of Driver Services.”
Also, if there is a child under the age of 14 onboard when the person is boating under the influence, the operator can face a charge of endangering a child.