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As we begin the summer season, many people will, of course, want to do some boating or yachting and get out onto the water to enjoy the sun and the fun. It is, of course, our common wish to have fun and to keep it safe, but this is also an area where the criminal law takes an interest in seeing that you keep safe in the water.

For example, just as it is illegal to drive a car when drunk, the same section of the Criminal Code of Canada applies as well to those who operate vessels when their ability to operate a vessel is impaired by alcohol or drugs, or they have consumed alcohol in such a quantity that the concentration in the person’s blood exceeds 80 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood (the famous “over 80”). The Criminal Code of Canada makes no distinction with regards to the punishment available. So, for example, a first conviction of drunk boating will result in a minimum $1,000.00 fine and a second conviction will result in a minimum of 30 days in jail.

Another section of the Criminal Code of Canada makes it illegal to knowingly send an unseaworthy vessel out on a voyage and thereby endanger the life of any person. If you were to be convicted of such an offence, you could receive up to a maximum of 5 years in jail.

Even somewhat lesser infractions could end up in you getting a criminal record. For example, water skiing or surf boarding could get you into trouble. If you operate a vessel while towing a person on water skis or a surf-board and there is not on board your vessel another person responsible for keeping watch on the person being towed, you could be guilty of an offence for which the maximum punishment could be up to 6 months in jail or a $5,000.00 fine, or both.

It is also illegal to tow somebody on water skies at night, that is, from one hour after sunset until sunrise. To do so, you could again be guilty of an infraction which could call for a fine up to $5,000.00 or up to six (6) months in jail, or both.

This has not been a comprehensive review of everything that could go wrong on the water this summer and for which you might even end up with a criminal record. This has just been a reminder to keep safe on the water this summer and please remember that the Criminal Code of Canada still applies, and has certain sections which are specifically applicable to boating activities. Do not let your summer fun become an occasion to deal with the criminal courts and wind up in more trouble than a ride on the lake or fun-time water skiing is worth.


Franco Tamburro, Attorney-at-Law
Alepin Gauthier Avocats Inc.

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