Erin Brockovich Busted for Boating DUI

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on June 12, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Erin Brockovich is facing a misdemeanor DUI charge after being busted on a boat.

Not Julia Roberts, the real Erin Brockovich.

The environmental activist, who famously helped to uncover a drinking water contamination case, seems to have borrowed the Middle Ages' solution to dirty drinking water. Brockovich-Ellis is accused of operating a boat while intoxicated at Lake Mead in Nevada, Los Angeles' KNBC-TV reports.

Boating Under the Influence

All states have laws against boating under the influence (BUI), which make it a crime to operate a boat or personal watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

Brockovich-Ellis was charged after police say she threw a cell phone into the water, slapped her husband, and openly admitted she was a terrible boat driver, reports TMZ.

When a game warden approached to investigate the situation, he suspected Brockovich-Ellis was under the influence, claiming she smelled like alcohol and and was slurring her speech.

She reportedly blew a 0.186% and 0.190% on a Breathalyzer, which is more than double the 0.08% legal limit.

In Nevada, drunken boating is treated similarly to drunk driving. As long as no one gets hurt, it usually results in a misdemeanor. If injuries are involved, however, it can lead to a serious felony with lengthy prison sentences.

Potential Penalties

For a simple misdemeanor BUI, Brockovich-Ellis may face up to six months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.

Operating under the influence is a serious problem in boating, officials said. Some 50% of all fatal boat accidents are alcohol-related, reports KNBC.

Different factors can affect a boat operator's physical and mental abilities while on the water. These include heat, sun, noise, wind, glare, and the motion of a boat on the water for a long period of time.

These factors are often referred to as "boater's fatigue." If alcohol and drugs are also involved, one's ability to safely operate a vessel on the water can be severely affected.

This is what reportedly happened to Brockovich-Ellis.

"After a day in the sun and with nothing to eat it appears that a couple of drinks had a greater impact than I had realized," she said in a statement, obtained by TMZ.

If you, like Andy Samberg, are on a boat, you may want to take the following precautions:

  • Be extra careful on major holiday weekends like the Fourth of July and Labor Day,
  • Stay hydrated and well-fed,
  • Protect yourself from prolonged sun exposure,
  • Know your local boating regulations, and
  • Make sure you and all passengers on the boat wear life vests.

"Boaters mistakenly think that boating and drinking go hand in hand," a spokesman for the Nevada wildlife department said, according to KNBC. "They certainly do not. If we could keep people sober while operating, we'd have much safer waterways."

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