Police can now recoup costs for drunken boaters

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published June 17, 2015


ST. CLAIR SHORES — With this being the first year of a stricter new standard for drunken driving on boats, this will also be the first year the St. Clair Shores Police Department can recoup its costs for those arrested for being under the influence on the water.

Michigan dropped the legal limit for blood alcohol content from 0.10 to 0.08 this year, bringing it in line with the legal limit on the road. And while St. Clair Shores police typically deal with drunken boaters once they arrive back on land, it still encompasses many working hours that weren’t being properly repaid before.

Police Chief Todd Woodcox said the city doesn’t initiate arrests on many drunken boaters throughout the year, but it’s common for the U.S. Coast Guard to make contact with boaters under the influence and then hand the case over to St. Clair Shores police once they are back on land.

“We would meet them at the shoreline, bring them in, do the breath tests and everything,” Woodcox said. “It becomes burdensome at times. Quite expensive, especially when you consider the amount of time officers spend going to court.”

But a measure approved by City Council in April allows the department to recoup the same costs from those arrested on the lake as it does for those charged with being under the influence on the road.

Woodcox told City Council that watercraft is covered under a state law that says a municipality can recoup any expenses it incurs dealing with a drunken driving incident. The ordinance change simply adds watercraft to the existing ordinance.

City Councilman John Caron said that with two restaurant bars that have a lot of watercraft traffic in the summer, the change is a good one to make.

The measure passed City Council unanimously.

Woodcox said he hopes to have more of a Police Department presence on the water in the future.

“That’s something I hope to do more, going forward, is have more visibility and more ... on-the-water direction from our department,” he said.

The ordinance change is good for citizens, he said, because it will help recoup the costs. “That way, the citizens aren’t paying the costs for the misdeeds of the few.”