Boating DUIs: Understanding Field Sobriety Tests in Arizona

The Importance of Field Sobriety Tests in Boating DUIs


Every year, thousands of boating enthusiasts head out to the water with family and friends to enjoy a nice day under the sun. However, some of these outings can turn deadly when alcohol consumption is involved, making boating under the influence (BUI) a serious problem in the United States. Given the significant danger posed by impaired boaters, law enforcement agencies are now using Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) to combat BUI offenses. In this article, we will explore the importance of FSTs in BUI cases and how they can help prevent deadly accidents on the waterways.

What are Field Sobriety Tests?

FSTs are a series of standardized tests that law enforcement officers use to determine if a driver or boater is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The tests include the horizontal gaze nystagmus, walk-and-turn, and one-leg stand, which are used to evaluate a driver's balance, coordination, and ability to follow instructions. If the officer observes signs of impairment during the FSTs, they can use the results to establish probable cause to arrest the driver or boater.

Why are FSTs Important in Boating DUIs?

Boating under the influence is just as dangerous as driving under the influence, and the consequences can be deadly. According to the US Coast Guard, alcohol is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, accounting for 23% of all boating deaths. With that in mind, it is crucial that law enforcement agencies use FSTs to establish probable cause to arrest impaired boaters. Moreover, FSTs are important in BUI cases because they can help identify impaired boaters who may not be visibly intoxicated. Unlike in DUI cases, where officers can smell alcohol on a driver's breath, it can be difficult to detect impairment in a boater who is out on the water. FSTs give officers a tool to detect impairment in boaters before deadly accidents occur.

Legal Standing of FSTs in Boating DUI Cases

Similar to DUI cases, officers must establish probable cause to conduct a BUI investigation. FSTs are one of the methods used to determine if probable cause exists. However, unlike in DUI cases, there is no implied consent law for FSTs in most states. While some states require boaters to submit to a breathalyzer test if arrested for BUI, they do not have to submit to FSTs. It is, therefore, essential that law enforcement officers adhere to strict legal guidelines when conducting FSTs during BUI investigations to ensure that the results are admissible in court.

What are the Limitations of FSTs in Boating DUI Cases?

While FSTs are a valuable tool for detecting impairment in boaters, they have their limitations. For instance, the tests may not be accurate when conducted on a moving vessel. Moreover, environmental factors, such as waves and wind, can affect a boater's balance, leading to false positive results. Additionally, some medical conditions and physical disabilities can interfere with the accuracy of FSTs.

Legal Defenses in FST Cases

If you have been arrested for BUI based on the results of an FST, several legal defenses may be available to you. For instance, you may argue that the officer did not adhere to the proper procedures when conducting the tests, making the results inadmissible in court. Similarly, you may argue that environmental factors, such as waves or wind, interfered with the accuracy of the tests. You may also argue that you have a medical condition or physical disability that affected your ability to perform the tests. An experienced BUI defense attorney can help assess your case and determine the best legal strategy to challenge the results of FSTs.


Boating under the influence is a severe problem that can lead to tragic accidents and loss of life. As such, law enforcement agencies are using Field Sobriety Tests to combat Boating DUIs. These tests are instrumental in preventing deadly accidents and detecting impaired boaters who may not be visibly intoxicated. However, FSTs have their limitations, and boat operators should be aware of their legal rights when faced with a BUI charge. If you have been arrested for BUI based on the results of an FST, it is essential to seek legal representation from an attorney experienced in handling Boating DUI cases. Field Sobriety Tests in Arizona Boating DUIs