Representing drunk drivers, boaters similar – The Daily Record
Reprinted from the August 31, 2012 issue.
By: Kristi Tousignant
Most attorneys say working a drunk boating case is almost the same as representing a drunk car driver.
“It is a complicated area of law,” said Dundalk solo attorney G. Randolph Rice Jr. “There are a lot of technical areas in every DUI case to make sure a person is defended properly.”
Many also say that a majority of their drunk boating clients are first-time offenders. They said they take no more than six of these cases a year.
“It just sort of creeps up on them,” said Robert A. Thornton Jr., a Denton solo attorney. “They don’t realize it. They don’t see the dangers of it like they do with the car.”
Rice said he sees about two or three clients a year with boating-while-drunk charges.
“You see a couple every year,” Rice said. “People are just drinking in a boat and got stopped and had alcohol. That’s what most people are doing.”
Andrew D. Alpert, an attorney with the Law Offices of Alpert Schreyer in Bowie, said it is important for those pulled over for drunk boating to insist on an acclamation period to get rid of their sea legs before performing sobriety tests.”
“My job is to make sure the officers have done their job,” Alpert said. “It’s to see if they have done things correctly more than anything else. If they haven’t, then they shouldn’t be awarded with a conviction. Justice should prevail, theoretically.”
When Alpert takes on a client, he first tries to find out what chemical sobriety tests his clients took.
“I determine what the proof is against them,” Thornton said. “You try to determine if in fact they had alcohol and if they were operating the vessel, because sometimes it’s hard to tell. Sometimes, the police don’t know who is operating the vessel.”
Alpert said, in his experience, judges are pretty strict with drunk boating offenders.
“The judges are pretty good in this state and are very sensitive to OWI,” Alpert said. “It’s a serious problem. It needs to be taken seriously. I’m not in any way diminishing the issue.”
Salisbury solo practitioner James V. Anthenelli, who defended Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps in his DWI case in 2004, said Judges are less likely to give supervised probation or classes to drunk boating offenders.
“In mandatory alcohol classes or things of that nature,” Anthenelli said. “In many cases, judges do want to see a safe boating course has been completed.”
Marc A. Zeve, a solo attorney in Ocean City, sees a lot of drunk boating cases out of the resort town that usually deal with a smaller boat or personal watercraft.
“It’s a lot of vacation people, but locals get it, too,:” Zeve said. “They do it top everyone down here.”