The truTV network show “Over the Limit” follows police officers as they confront individuals who are either intoxicated, in possession of narcotics, acting out of control, disturbing public peace, and/or breaking the law. Episode #204 of this series aired on Sunday, September 26th and was packed with its typical law-breaking “over the limit” miscreants.

In this episode, New Jersey state police pull over a man for recklessly operating his boat on a river that is a well- known hot spot for weekend partiers. After pulling up next to the boat, police notice a large number of its passengers consuming alcohol. The officers become suspicious of the boat operator’s sobriety and notice that his eyes are blood shot, glossy, and indicative of alcohol consumption. The police escort the man into their boat where they begin to perform several sobriety tests. The first test is to make the man recite and write the alphabet, his name, the date and the time. The next tests are a series of hand-eye coordination exercises. After performing these tests, the officers inform the driver that he has failed all of them. The police then ask the man to blow into a breathalyzer machine. At first, the man refuses, but after learning he will immediately be brought to jail if he refuses, he agrees to the breath test. The driver of the boat’s Blood Alcohol Count (B.A.C.) registers on the machine as a .177%, over two times the legal limit of .08% in the state of New Jersey. As a result, the boat operator is arrested for Boating While Intoxicated (BWI), is handcuffed, and transported by boat to jail.

In New Jersey, boating laws are governed by New Jersey Statute Title 12, Chapter 7 and are enforced under the authority of the New Jersey State Police Marine Services Bureau. Specifically, the crime of BWI is regulated by N.J.S.A. 12: 7-46, “operating or permitting another to operate vessel under influence of alcohol or drug; penalties; satisfaction of screening, evaluation, referral and program requirements.” This statute states that no person shall operate or permit another to operate a vessel on New Jersey waters with a B.A.C. of .08% or more by weight of alcohol. The statute further explains the penalties for a person who commits this offense and distinguishes between first, second, and third offenders.

This episode of “Over the Limit” did not disclose whether the driver of the boat has been convicted of driving under the influence prior to this arrest. However, for purposes of this analysis, let’s assume that it was his first offense since the show failed to mention any prior violations. Under New Jersey boating law, penalties for a first offense BWI are different depending on the B.A.C. of the driver. Under NJSA 12: 7-46 (a)(1)(i), if the B.A.C. is .08% or higher but less than a .10%, the violator will be subject to a fine between $250 and $400, will lose his privilege to operate a vessel on New Jersey waters for one year after the date of conviction, and will lose his privilege to operate a motor vehicle for a period of 3 months. Since the driver of the boat in this episode has a B.A.C. of .177% and is higher than a .10%, his offense would be subject to the next set of penalties listed under NJSA 12: 7-46 (a)(1)(ii). Under this statute, a violator will be subject to a fine between $300 and $500, will lose the privilege to operate a water vessel in the state for one year, and will forfeit the privilege to operate a motor vehicle for a period between 7 and 12 months. In addition to these penalties, a person convicted of a BWI may also have to pay several fees and participate in an intoxicated driver’s program. Failure to follow these requirements set forth by New Jersey state law would subject the offender to possible jail time and increased fees.

Many people do not realize that DWI laws and penalties apply to the operation of water vehicles. Boating activities often involve alcohol and drivers and passengers can be subject to a ticket or arrest for BWI. State and local authorities are serious about stopping the combination of boating and alcohol and operators of water vehicles should be just as conscious of BWI offenses as motor vehicle drivers are of DWI offenses.