A change in state law taking effect Sunday ups the penalty for boating under the influence and includes limits for marijuana intoxication.
Boating under the influence will change from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor and will be punishable by as much as a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
The legal limit for marijuana use will be 5 nanograms, to be measured by a blood sample obtained through a warrant.
Spokane County Sheriff Deputy Craig Chamberlin said law enforcement and citizens pushed for the change, both to clarify the law in regards to marijuana and to make the penalty harsher.
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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that a blood test without a warrant may be unconstitutional. Chamberlin said the Sheriff’s Office has obtained warrants when excessive marijuana use is suspected.
He said a deputy can place a citizen under arrest with probable cause, such as someone slurring their speech or driving a boat erratically. Sobriety field tests are not reliable on the water because of rocking boats, he said.
The suspect stays in custody until a warrant is obtained for the blood test. That can take time, Chamberlin said, although there is always a judge on call.
Results can take as long as a month.
In Idaho, the penalty for boating under the influence is still a maximum of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Any amount of marijuana is still illegal in Idaho.
Chamberlin said the biggest difference between driving-under-the-influence arrests in cars versus boats is the initial stop. On the water, deputies can perform regular boat-safety checks and therefore do not have to have a reason to make a stop. On the road, law enforcement has to have a reason to pull over a vehicle.
Another difference is open-container restrictions. Boaters can have open containers of alcohol, unlike drivers.