Boaters beware: Bill takes aim at alcohol, crash 'loopholes'

State Rep. Sonny Borrelli has sponsored legislation that, if ultimately signed into law, would close what he said were two major loopholes in the state’s watercraft laws. Above, boaters enjoy the Colorado River in this 2010 photograph.<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 --> (JC AMBERLYN/Miner

State Rep. Sonny Borrelli has sponsored legislation that, if ultimately signed into law, would close what he said were two major loopholes in the state’s watercraft laws. Above, boaters enjoy the Colorado River in this 2010 photograph.<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 --> (JC AMBERLYN/Miner

KINGMAN - Boaters suspected of impairment in Arizona will no longer be able to refuse tests for alcohol or drugs without suffering consequences if legislation sponsored by State Rep. Sonny Borrelli becomes law.

A second loophole in the state's watercraft safety law Borrelli seeks to close is an absence of penalties for people who crash into moored watercraft or unattended docks.

HB 2003 would mandate a $1,250 fine on anyone who refuses tests for alcohol or drugs and would make crashing into unattended craft or a dock a class 3 misdemeanor.

Current state law places no penalty on suspected impaired boat operators who refuse tests and law enforcement must obtain a warrant, said Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, in a statement. The alcohol blood concentration necessary to seek a conviction might disappear in the interim, he said.

"Unlike vehicular DUIs, law enforcement is essentially neutralized because there's nothing currently that penalizes a person for refusing a test," said Borrelli.

And as strange as it sounds, there is no current penalty for crashing into unattended boats and other watercraft. Because of this, said Borrelli, victims cannot recover damages under insurance policies because a crime, technically, did not occur.

"This bill is about preserving public safety and protecting personal property from irresponsible people," said Borrelli. "We must prescribe penalties for these in state statute and close up the loopholes."

Neither insurance nor a driver's license is required on the water and that's not going to change, said Borrelli.

HB 2003 passed out of the House Committee of the Whole on Monday and will head to the Senate after a third reading.