Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 29.1. Wildlife, Inland Fisheries and Boating
Chapter 7. Boating Laws
12/5/2022

Article 3. Boating Safety.

§ 29.1-734. Authorization for and placing of markers in waters of the Commonwealth used for public swimming areas; no motorboating, waterskiing in marked area.

A. Any owner of real estate which touches any of the waters of this Commonwealth or the agent of the owner may petition the Board to authorize the placing of markers approved by the Board around a public swimming or bathing area.

B. The Department, upon receiving the petition and sufficient proof that the water adjacent to the real estate is used in whole or in part as a public swimming or bathing area, may authorize the placement of the markers to designate the area as a swimming or bathing area.

C. The cost of the purchase and placement of the markers shall be borne by the party requesting the placement of the markers.

D. No person shall operate a motorboat or manipulate skis within the area of the waters of the Commonwealth marked under this section. Persons violating this subsection shall be guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.

1964, c. 654, § 62-174.5:1; 1968, c. 659, § 62.1-171; 1983, c. 475; 1987, c. 488.

§ 29.1-734.1. Skin and scuba divers.

A. No person shall engage in skin diving or scuba diving from a boat in the waters of this Commonwealth which are open to boating, or assist in such diving, without displaying a diver's flag from a mast, buoy, or other structure at the place of diving; and no person shall display such flag except when diving operations are under way or in preparation or display a diver's flag in a location which will unreasonably obstruct vessels from making legitimate navigational use of the water.

B. The diver's flag shall be square, not less than twelve inches on a side, and shall be of red background with a diagonal white stripe, of a width equal to one fifth of the flag's height, running from the upper corner adjacent to the mast downward to the opposite outside corner.

C. No operator of a vessel under way in the waters of this Commonwealth shall permit such vessel to approach closer than twenty-five yards to any structure from which a diver's flag is then being displayed.

1987, c. 488.

§ 29.1-735. Regulations for vessel operation and equipment.

A. The Board shall adopt such regulations as it deems appropriate: (i) to provide rules for the safe and reasonable operation of vessels so as to reduce the risks of collision, personal injury and property damage as a result of such operation; and (ii) to govern the number, type, condition, performance capabilities, use, and stowage on board, of lifesaving (personal flotation) devices and other safety equipment to be carried on vessels or classes of vessels operated on waters within the territorial limits of this Commonwealth.

B. The Board is hereby authorized to make regulations to the extent necessary to keep these requirements generally in conformity with the provisions of the federal navigation laws, or with the rules promulgated by the United States Coast Guard or the United States Secretary of Transportation.

C. No person shall operate or give permission for the operation of a vessel which is not equipped as required by Board regulations.

1984, c. 417, § 62.1-172.1; 1987, c. 488.

§ 29.1-735.1. Board authorized to promulgate regulations for seaplanes.

The Board may promulgate regulations governing the takeoff, landing and taxi of seaplanes on impoundments located in the inland waters of the Commonwealth, so as to reduce the risks of collision, personal injury and property damage as a result of such operation. Such regulations shall not be inconsistent with regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration. Conservation police officers shall report any alleged violations of federal or state regulations regarding the operation of seaplanes or aircraft to the appropriate federal authorities responsible for regulating the operation of seaplanes and aircraft.

1994, c. 414.

§ 29.1-735.2. Boating safety education required; Board to promulgate regulations.

A. No person shall operate a motorboat with a motor of 10 horsepower or greater or personal watercraft on the public waters of the Commonwealth, unless the operator has met the requirements for boating safety education in accordance with the age provisions established in subsection D.

B. A person shall be considered in compliance with the requirements for boating safety education if the person meets one of the following:

1. Completes and passes a boating safety course approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and accepted by the Department;

2. Passes a proctored equivalency examination that tests the knowledge of information included in the curriculum of an approved course;

3. Possesses a valid license to operate a vessel issued to maritime personnel by the United States Coast Guard or a marine certificate issued by the Canadian government;

4. Possesses a state-approved nonrenewable temporary operator's certificate to operate a motorboat for 90 days that was issued with the certificate of number for the motorboat, if the boat is new or was sold with a transfer of ownership;

5. Possesses a rental or lease agreement from a motorboat rental or leasing business, which lists the person as the authorized operator of the motorboat;

6. Operates the motorboat under onboard direct supervision of a person who meets the requirements of this section;

7. Demonstrates that he is not a resident, is temporarily using the waters of Virginia for a period not to exceed 90 days, and meets any applicable boating safety education requirements of the state of residency, or possesses a Canadian Pleasure Craft Operator's Card;

8. Has assumed operation of the motorboat due to the illness or physical impairment of the initial operator, and is returning the motorboat to shore in order to provide assistance or care for the operator;

9. Is registered as a commercial fisherman pursuant to § 28.2-241 or a person who is under the onboard direct supervision of the commercial fisherman while operating the commercial fisherman's boat;

10. Provides documentation that he is serving or has qualified as a surface warfare officer or enlisted surface warfare specialist in the United States Navy; or

11. Provides documentation that he is serving or has qualified as an Officer of the Deck Underway, boat coxswain, boat officer, boat operator, watercraft operator, or Marine Deck Officer in any branch of the Armed Forces of the United States, United States Coast Guard, or Merchant Marine.

C. The Board shall promulgate regulations by July 1, 2008, to implement a boating safety education program for all motorboat and personal watercraft operators to meet boating safety education requirements.

D. Such regulations shall include provisions that phase-in the requirements for boating safety education according to the following:

1. Personal watercraft operators 20 years of age or younger to meet the requirements by July 1, 2009;

2. Personal watercraft operators 35 years of age or younger to meet the requirements by July 1, 2010;

3. Personal watercraft operators 50 years of age or younger to meet the requirements by July 1, 2011;

4. All personal watercraft operators, regardless of age, to meet the requirements by July 1, 2012;

5. Motorboat operators 20 years of age or younger to meet the requirements by July 1, 2011;

6. Motorboat operators 30 years of age or younger to meet the requirements by July 1, 2012;

7. Motorboat operators 40 years of age or younger to meet the requirements by July 1, 2013;

8. Motorboat operators 45 years of age or younger to meet the requirements by July 1, 2014;

9. Motorboat operators 50 years of age or younger to meet the requirements by July 1, 2015; and

10. All motorboat operators, regardless of age, to meet the requirements by July 1, 2016.

E. Such regulations may include, but not be limited to, provisions for compliance, statewide availability of NASBLA-approved courses including through the Internet, the issuance of certificates to document successful course completion, duplicate certificates, recordkeeping, requirements for course providers, instructor certification, student name and address changes, equivalency exam criteria, provisions for an open-book test for classroom based courses, requirements for motorboat rental and leasing businesses, issuance of a temporary operator's certificate, and the establishment of fees (not to exceed the cost of giving such instruction for each person participating in and receiving the instruction) for boating safety courses and certificates.

F. The Board shall consult and coordinate with the boating public, professional organizations for recreational boating safety, and the boating retail, leasing, and dealer business community in the promulgation of such regulations.

G. The Department shall, by July 1, 2018, establish and thereafter shall maintain a database listing every person who, at any time prior to that date, has completed and passed a boating safety course pursuant to subdivision B 1. The database shall list each person's full name and date of birth and the date on which he passed the safety course, and it shall allow any person who completes and passes the course after July 1, 2018, to add his own information. The Department shall make the database available to law-enforcement officers and, to the extent possible or appropriate, shall maintain the confidentiality of information in the database.

H. Any person who operates a motorboat on the waters of the Commonwealth shall, upon the request of a law-enforcement officer, present to the officer evidence in physical or electronic form that he has complied with subsection B. The law-enforcement officer shall not issue a citation until he has checked the boating safety course passage database created pursuant to subsection G. The listing of the operator in such database shall constitute satisfactory evidence that he has complied with subsection B.

I. Any person who violates any provision of this section or any regulation promulgated hereunder shall be subject to a civil penalty of $100. All civil penalties assessed under this section shall be deposited in the Motorboat and Water Safety Fund of the Game Protection Fund and used as provided for in § 29.1-701.

J. The provisions of this section shall not apply to law-enforcement officers while they are engaged in the performance of their official duties.

2007, cc. 615, 732; 2013, c. 48; 2015, c. 160; 2017, c. 360.

§ 29.1-735.3. Regulation of parasail operators.

The Board shall promulgate regulations applicable to the commercial operations of parasail operators on waters of the Commonwealth. Such regulations shall take into consideration the operating standards and guidelines of the Professional Association of Parasail Operators.

2007, c. 625; 2020, c. 958.

§ 29.1-736. Boat rentals; equipment; safety course.

A. It shall be unlawful to rent a motorboat to any person unless the provisions of this chapter have been complied with. It shall be the duty of persons renting motorboats to equip them as required by this chapter.

B. It shall be unlawful for any person to regularly offer a boat or boats, other than a motorboat, for rent for use on the public waters of the Commonwealth unless such person provides, for the use of each passenger in the boat, a life preserver of the sort prescribed by the regulations of the Board.

C. It shall be unlawful for any person, without first successfully completing a basic boating safety education course approved by the Director, to rent a personal watercraft to another person.

1960, c. 500, § 62-174.8; 1962, c. 626; 1968, c. 659, § 62.1-174; 1987, c. 488; 1998, c. 515.

§ 29.1-737. Muffling devices.

The exhaust of every internal combustion engine used on any motorboat shall be effectively muffled by equipment so constructed and used as to muffle the noise of the exhaust in a reasonable manner. The muffling device shall exhaust at or below the water line or it shall be equipped with mechanical baffles. The use of cutouts is prohibited, except as approved by the Department or the U.S. Coast Guard.

1960, c. 500, § 62-174.9; 1968, c. 659, § 62.1-175; 1987, c. 488; 1997, c. 108.

§ 29.1-738. Operating boat or manipulating water skis, etc., in reckless manner or while intoxicated, etc.

A. No person shall operate any motorboat or vessel, or manipulate any skis, surfboard, or similar device, or engage in any spearfishing while skin diving or scuba diving in a reckless manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person.

B. No person shall operate any watercraft, as defined in § 29.1-733.2, or motorboat which is underway (i) while such person has a blood alcohol concentration at or greater than the blood alcohol concentration at which it is unlawful to drive or operate a motor vehicle as provided in § 18.2-266 as indicated by a chemical test administered in accordance with § 29.1-738.2, (ii) while such person is under the influence of alcohol, (iii) while such person is under the influence of any narcotic drug or any other self-administered intoxicant or drug of whatsoever nature, or any combination of such drugs, to a degree which impairs his ability to operate the watercraft or motorboat safely, (iv) while such person is under the combined influence of alcohol and any drug or drugs to a degree which impairs his ability to operate the watercraft or motorboat safely, or (v) while such person has a blood concentration of any of the following substances at a level that is equal to or greater than (a) 0.02 milligrams of cocaine per liter of blood, (b) 0.1 milligrams of methamphetamine per liter of blood, (c) 0.01 milligrams of phencyclidine per liter of blood, or (d) 0.1 milligrams of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine per liter of blood.

C. For purposes of this article, the word "operate" includes being in actual physical control of a watercraft or motorboat and "underway" means that a vessel is not at anchor, or made fast to the shore, or aground.

Any person who violates any provision of this section is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

1960, c. 500, § 62-174.10; 1962, c. 626; 1968, c. 659, § 62.1-176; 1987, c. 488; 1988, c. 176; 1989, c. 726; 1994, c. 587; 1996, cc. 929, 1015; 1997, c. 703; 2005, c. 616; 2013, c. 787.

§ 29.1-738.01. Operating boat in an improper manner; penalty.

Notwithstanding the provisions of § 29.1-738, upon the trial of any person charged with reckless boating where the degree of culpability is slight, the court in its discretion may find the accused not guilty of reckless boating but guilty of improper boating. Improper boating shall be punishable as a Class 3 misdemeanor.

1991, c. 404.

§ 29.1-738.02. Persons under age twenty-one operating watercraft after illegally consuming alcohol; penalty.

A. It shall be unlawful for any person under the age of twenty-one to operate any watercraft or motorboat upon the waters of the Commonwealth after consuming alcohol. Any such person with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.02 percent or more by weight by volume or 0.02 grams or more per 210 liters of breath but less than 0.08 by weight by volume or less than 0.08 grams per 210 liters of breath as indicated by a chemical test administered as provided in Article 2 (§ 18.2-266 et seq.) of Chapter 7 of Title 18.2 shall be in violation of this section.

B. A violation of this section shall be punishable by denial by the court of such person's privilege to operate a watercraft or motorboat for a period of six months from the date of conviction and by a fine of not more than $500. Any person convicted of a violation of this section shall be eligible to attend an Alcohol Safety Action Program under the provisions of § 29.1-738.5.

1996, c. 631.

§ 29.1-738.03. Reckless operation of a personal watercraft.

A person shall be guilty of reckless operation of a motorboat or vessel who operates any personal watercraft recklessly or at a speed or in such a manner so as to endanger the life, limb or property of any person, which shall include, but not be limited to:

1. Weaving through vessels which are underway, stopped, moored or at anchor while exceeding a reasonable speed under the circumstances and traffic conditions existing at the time;

2. Following another vessel or person on water skis or other similar device, crossing the path of another vessel, or jumping the wake of another vessel more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard to the speed of both vessels and the traffic on and the condition of the waters at the time;

3. Crossing between the towing vessel and a person on water skis or other device; or

4. Steering toward an object or person and turning sharply in close proximity to such object or person in order to spray or attempt to spray the object or person with the wash or jet spray of the personal watercraft.

A person who violates this section shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor, and for a second or subsequent offense, the court shall order the person not to operate a personal watercraft which is underway upon the waters of the Commonwealth for a period of twelve months.

1998, c. 514.

§ 29.1-738.1. Analysis of breath to determine alcohol content of blood.

Any person who is suspected of a violation of subsection B of § 29.1-738 or § 29.1-738.02 shall be entitled, if such equipment is available, to have a preliminary breath analysis for the purpose of obtaining an analysis of the probable alcohol content of his blood. The procedures and requirements of § 18.2-267 shall apply, mutatis mutandis.

1989, c. 726; 1996, c. 631.

§ 29.1-738.2. Consent to blood or breath test.

A. Any person who operates a watercraft or motorboat which is underway upon waters of the Commonwealth shall be deemed thereby, as a condition of such operation, to have consented to have samples of his blood, breath, or both blood and breath taken for a chemical test to determine the alcohol, drug, or both alcohol and drug content of his blood, if such person is arrested for operating a watercraft or motorboat which is underway in violation of subsection B of § 29.1-738, § 29.1-738.02, or of a similar ordinance of any county, city or town, within three hours of the alleged offense. Any person so arrested for a violation of clause (i) or (ii), or both, of subsection B of § 29.1-738, § 29.1-738.02, or of a similar ordinance, shall submit to a breath test. If the breath test is not available, or the person is physically unable to submit to the breath test, a blood test shall be given. The accused shall, prior to administration of the test, be advised by the person administering the test that he has the right to observe the process of analysis and to see the blood-alcohol reading on the equipment used to perform the breath test. If such equipment automatically produces a written printout of the breath test result, this written printout, or a copy thereof, shall be given to the accused in each case.

B. Any person, after having been arrested for a violation of clause (iii), (iv), or (v) of subsection B of § 29.1-738, § 29.1-738.02, or of a similar ordinance, may be required to submit to a blood test to determine the drug or both drug and alcohol content of his blood. When a person, after having been arrested for a violation of clause (i) or (ii), or both, of subsection B of § 29.1-738, submits to a breath test, in accordance with subsection A of this section, or refuses to take or is incapable of taking such a breath test, he may be required to submit to tests to determine the drug or both drug and alcohol content of his blood if the law-enforcement officer has reasonable cause to believe the person was operating a watercraft or motorboat under the influence of any drug or combination of drugs, or the combined influence of alcohol and drugs.

C. If a person, after being arrested for a violation of subsection B of § 29.1-738, § 29.1-738.02, or of a similar ordinance of any county, city or town and after having been advised by the arresting officer that a person who operates a watercraft or motorboat which is underway upon the waters of the Commonwealth shall be deemed thereby, as a condition of such operation, to have consented to have a sample of his blood and breath taken for a chemical test to determine the alcohol or drug content of his blood, and that the unreasonable refusal to do so constitutes grounds for a court to order him not to operate a watercraft or motorboat which is underway upon the waters of the Commonwealth, then refuses to permit the taking of a sample of his blood or breath or both blood and breath samples for such tests, the arresting officer shall take the person arrested before a committing magistrate. If the person is unable to be taken before a magistrate because the person is taken to a medical facility for treatment or evaluation of his medical condition, the arresting officer at a medical facility, in the presence of a witness other than a law-enforcement officer, shall again advise the person, at the medical facility, of the law requiring blood or breath samples to be taken and the penalty for refusal. If he again so refuses after having been further advised by such magistrate or by the arresting officer at a medical facility of the law requiring a blood or breath sample to be taken and the penalty for refusal, and so declares again his refusal in writing upon a form provided by the Supreme Court of Virginia, or refuses or fails to so declare in writing and such fact is certified as prescribed in § 18.2-268.3, then no blood or breath sample shall be taken even though he may thereafter request same.

D. When any person is arrested for operating a watercraft or motorboat which is underway in violation of subsection B of § 29.1-738 or § 29.1-738.02, the procedures and requirements of §§ 18.2-268.1 through 18.2-268.11 shall apply, mutatis mutandis, to this section.

E. If the court or jury finds the defendant guilty of unreasonably refusing to permit a blood or breath sample to be taken, the court shall order such person not to operate a watercraft or motorboat which is underway for a period of 12 months for a first offense and for 24 months for a second or subsequent offense of refusal within five years of the first or other such refusal. However, if the defendant pleads guilty to a violation of subsection B of § 29.1-738, the court may dismiss the refusal warrant.

1989, c. 726; 1990, cc. 825, 929; 1992, c. 830; 1995, c. 130; 1996, c. 631; 2001, c. 779; 2005, c. 616; 2007, c. 168.

§ 29.1-738.3. Presumptions from alcohol or drug content.

In any prosecution for operating a watercraft or motorboat that is underway in violation of clause (ii), (iii), or (iv) of subsection B of § 29.1-738, or of a similar ordinance of any county, city or town, the amount of alcohol or drugs in the blood of the accused at the time of the alleged offense as indicated by a chemical analysis of a sample of the accused's blood or breath to determine the alcohol or drug content of his blood (i) in accordance with the provisions of § 29.1-738.2 or (ii) performed by the Department of Forensic Science in accordance with the provisions of §§ 18.2-268.5, 18.2-268.6, and 18.2-268.7 on the suspect's whole blood drawn pursuant to a search warrant shall give rise to the rebuttable presumptions of subdivisions A 1 through 4 of § 18.2-269.

1989, c. 726; 1995, c. 130; 2005, c. 616; 2017, c. 623.

§ 29.1-738.4. Additional penalty for reckless or intoxicated operation of a watercraft or motorboat.

In addition to any other penalties authorized by law, upon conviction of any person for violation of any provision of § 29.1-738, the court shall order such person not to operate a watercraft or motorboat which is underway upon the waters of the Commonwealth for a period of twelve months from the date of a first conviction or for a period of three years from the date of a second or subsequent conviction within ten years of a first conviction. The period specified in any such order prohibiting operation of a watercraft or motorboat which is underway imposed pursuant to this section shall run consecutively with any such order imposed for refusal to permit a blood or breath sample to be taken.

A first offense of violating this section shall constitute a Class 2 misdemeanor. A second or subsequent offense shall constitute a Class 1 misdemeanor. In addition, the court shall suspend the person's privilege to operate a motorboat or watercraft for the same period for which it had been suspended or revoked when such person violated this section.

The period specified in any such order prohibiting operation of a watercraft or motorboat which is underway imposed pursuant to this section may be suspended by the court only as authorized in § 29.1-738.5.

1989, c. 726; 1996, cc. 929, 1015.

§ 29.1-738.5. Participation in rehabilitation program.

A. Any person convicted of a violation of subsection B of § 29.1-738, or any ordinance of a county, city or town similar to the provisions thereof, or any second offense thereunder, shall, with leave of court or upon court order, enter into an alcohol safety action program certified by the Commission on the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP) in the judicial district in which the charge is brought or in any other judicial district upon such terms and conditions as the court may set forth. In the determination of the eligibility of such person to enter a program, the court shall consider his prior record of participation in any other rehabilitation program. Suspension of the penalties imposed pursuant to § 29.1-738.4 shall be conditioned upon successful completion of such a program.

B. The court shall require the person entering such program under the provisions of subsection A to pay a fee of no less than $250 but no more than $300. A reasonable portion of such fee, as may be determined by the Commission on VASAP, but not to exceed ten percent, shall be forwarded quarterly to be deposited with the State Treasurer for expenditure by the Commission on VASAP, and the balance shall be held in a separate fund for local administration of alcohol rehabilitation programs. Upon a finding that the defendant is indigent, the court may reduce or waive the fee. In addition to the costs of the proceeding, fees as may reasonably be required of defendants referred for extended treatment under such program may be charged.

C. Upon such conviction, the court shall impose the sentence authorized. Upon a finding that a person so convicted is eligible for participation in an alcohol rehabilitation program, the court shall enter the conviction on the warrant, and shall note that the person so convicted has been referred to a program. If the court finds that a person is not eligible for a program or subsequently that the person has violated, without good cause, any of the conditions set forth by the court in entering the program, the court shall dispose of the case as if no program had been entered. Appeals from any such disposition shall be allowed as provided by law.

The court shall have jurisdiction over any person entering a program under the provisions of this section until such time as the case has been disposed of by either successful completion of the program, or final imposition of sentence upon ineligibility or violation of a condition imposed by the court, whichever occurs first.

D. The Commission on VASAP shall establish standards and criteria for the implementation and operation of water safety alcohol rehabilitation programs. The Commission on VASAP shall also establish criteria for the modalities of administration of such programs, as well as public information, accounting procedures and allocation of funds.

1989, c. 726.

§ 29.1-738.6. When arrested person operating a vessel; how vessel removed from scene of arrest.

In any case in which a law-enforcement officer arrests the operator of a vessel, and there is no legal cause for the retention of the vessel by the officer, the officer shall allow the person arrested to designate another person who is present at the scene of the arrest to operate the vessel from the scene to a place designated by the person arrested. If such a designation is not made, the officer may cause the vessel to be taken to the nearest appropriate place for safekeeping.

1997, c. 152.

§ 29.1-739. Duty of operator involved in collision, accident or other casualty; immunity from liability; report of collision, etc.; summons in lieu of arrest.

A. It shall be the duty of the operator of a vessel involved in a collision, accident, or other casualty, so far as he can do so without serious danger to his own vessel, crew, and passengers (if any), to render persons affected by the collision, accident, or other casualty such assistance as may be practicable and as may be necessary in order to minimize any danger caused by the collision, accident, or other casualty, and also give his name, address, and identification of his vessel in writing to any person injured and to the owner of any property damaged in the collision, accident, or other casualty. Any person who complies with this subsection or who gratuitously and in good faith renders assistance at the scene of a vessel collision, accident, or other casualty without objection of any person assisted, shall not be held liable for any civil damages as a result of the rendering of assistance or for any act or omission in providing or arranging salvage, towage, medical treatment or other assistance where the assisting person acts as an ordinary, reasonably prudent person would have acted under the same or similar circumstances.

B. In case of collision, accident, or other casualty involving a vessel, the operator of the vessel, if the collision, accident, or other casualty is of such a nature as to be reportable pursuant to regulations adopted by the Board, shall notify within a reasonable time a law-enforcement officer of the Commonwealth, conservation police officer, or Marine Resources Commission inspector.

The operator shall file with the Department a full report of the collision, accident, or other casualty, as the regulations of the Board may require. The report shall be without prejudice, shall be for the information of the Department only, and shall not be open to public inspection. The fact that such a report has been made shall be admissible in evidence solely to show compliance with this section and applicable regulations, but no such report nor any statement contained in the report shall be admissible as evidence for any other purpose in any trial.

C. Any officer investigating any collision, accident or other casualty shall have authority, in lieu of arresting any person charged with violating any of the provisions of this chapter, to issue a written summons to the person (stating name, address, boat number, offense charged, etc.) to appear in court as in § 46.2-936.

1960, c. 500, § 62-174.11; 1962, c. 626; 1968, c. 659, § 62.1-177; 1972, c. 412; 1973, c. 381; 1987, c. 488; 1991, c. 336; 2007, c. 87.

§ 29.1-739.1. Disregarding signal by law-enforcement officer to stop; attempts to elude; penalty.

A. Any person who, having received a visible or audible signal of a flashing light or siren from any conservation police officer or other law-enforcement officer to bring his motorboat or other vessel, or seaplane to a stop, fails to do so promptly shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.

B. Any person who, having received a visible or audible signal of a flashing light or siren from any conservation police officer or other law-enforcement officer to bring his motorboat or other vessel, or seaplane to a stop, (i) operates or navigates such motorboat or other vessel, or seaplane in willful or wanton disregard of such signal so as to endanger the life of the law-enforcement officer or other persons or to interfere with the operation of a law-enforcement vessel, or (ii) increases his speed and attempts to escape or elude a law-enforcement officer shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

1993, c. 243; 1994, c. 414; 2007, c. 87.

§ 29.1-739.2. Conservation police officers to patrol lakes.

The Department shall have an enhanced enforcement effort that is commensurate with the level of boating activity from Memorial Day through Labor Day in the waters of those Virginia lakes that (i) are of a size comparable to or greater than Smith Mountain Lake and (ii) have a comparable number of reported boating accidents during the last five years as Smith Mountain Lake.

2005, c. 233; 2007, c. 87; 2008, c. 535.

§ 29.1-740. Duty to stop and render assistance; penalties for violations.

It shall be the duty of every operator of a vessel involved in a collision to stop and render assistance as required by § 29.1-739. If any person knowingly fails to comply with the provisions of § 29.1-739 when the collision, accident or other casualty results in serious bodily injury to, or the death of, any person, he shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony. If any person knowingly fails to comply with the provisions of § 29.1-739, when the collision, accident or other casualty results only in damage to property, he shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. However, if the vessel struck is unattended and the damage is less than fifty dollars, such person shall be punished only by a fine not exceeding fifty dollars.

1975, c. 429, § 62.1-177.1; 1987, c. 488.

§ 29.1-741. Furnishing information to agency of United States.

In accordance with any request duly made by an authorized official or agency of the United States, any information compiled or otherwise available to the Department pursuant to subsection B of § 29.1-739 shall be transmitted to the official or agency of the United States.

1960, c. 500, § 62-174.12; 1968, c. 659, § 62.1-178; 1987, c. 488.

§ 29.1-742. Towing water skis, surfboards, etc.

A. No person shall operate a vessel on any waters of the Commonwealth for towing a person or persons on water skis, a surfboard, or a similar device unless there is in the vessel a person, in addition to the operator, in a position to observe the progress of the person or persons being towed or unless the skier or skiers wear life preservers.

B. No person shall operate a vessel on any water of the Commonwealth towing a person or persons on water skis, a surfboard, or a similar device, nor shall any person engage in water skiing or a similar activity at any time between the hours from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise. The provisions of this subsection shall not constitute a defense to any provision of § 29.1-738.

C. The provisions of subsections A and B of this section do not apply to a performer engaged in a professional exhibition.

D. No person shall operate or manipulate any vessel, towrope, or other device by which the direction or location of water skis, a surfboard, or a similar device may be affected or controlled in such a way as to cause the water skis, surfboard, or similar device, or any person upon the device to collide with any object or person.

1960, c. 500, § 62-174.13; 1962, c. 626; 1968, c. 659, § 62.1-179; 1982, c. 236; 1987, c. 488; 1988, c. 265; 1993, c. 275; 1997, c. 108.

§ 29.1-743. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1997, c. 108.

§ 29.1-744. Local regulation; application for placement or removal of "no wake" buoys, etc.

A. Any political subdivision of this Commonwealth may, at any time, but only after public notice, formally apply to the Board for special rules and regulations with reference to the safe and reasonable operation of vessels on any water within its territorial limits and shall specify in the application the reasons which make the special rules or regulations necessary or appropriate.

B. The Board is authorized upon application by a political subdivision or its own motion to make special or general rules and regulations with reference to the safe and reasonable operation of vessels on any waters within the territorial limits of any political subdivision of this Commonwealth. Without limiting the generality of the grant of such power, a system of regulatory or navigational markers may be adopted by the Board. Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect the application of any general law concerning the tidal waters of this Commonwealth.

C. Any county, city or town of this Commonwealth may enact ordinances which parallel general law regulating the operation of vessels on any waters within its territorial limits, including the marginal adjacent ocean, and the conduct and activity of any person using such waters. The locality may also provide for enforcement and penalties for the violation of the ordinances, provided the penalties do not exceed the penalties provided in this chapter for similar offenses.

D. After notice to the Department, any county, city or town may, by ordinance, establish "no wake" zones along the waterways within the locality in order to protect public safety and prevent erosion damage to adjacent property. However, any county that is adjacent to an inland lake (i) more than 500 feet above sea level and (ii) of 20,000 acres or more and wholly located within the Commonwealth may, by ordinance, establish "no wake" zones along such lake within the locality in order to protect public safety or prevent erosion damage to adjacent property. The markers and buoys designating a no wake zone shall conform to the requirements established by the Board. Any marker or buoy which is not placed in conformance with the regulations of the Board or which is not properly maintained shall be removed by the locality. The locality may provide for enforcement and penalties for the violation of the ordinance.

E. Any person who desires to place or remove "no wake" buoys or other markers relating to the safe and efficient operation of vessels pursuant to any local ordinance shall apply to the local governing body. The local governing body shall approve, disapprove or approve with modifications the application and forward it to the Director, who shall approve, disapprove or approve with modifications within thirty days the placement and type of marker to be used or the removal of "no wake" buoys or other markers. The cost of the purchase and placement or the removal of the buoys or markers shall be borne by the person requesting the placement or removal of the buoys or markers. Any marker or buoy which is not placed in conformance with the regulations of the Board or which is not properly maintained may be removed by the Department. "No wake" buoys or other markers placed prior to July 1, 2001, shall only be removed when no longer required for the safe and efficient operation of vessels pursuant to any local ordinance.

1960, c. 500, § 62-174.15; 1964, cc. 346, 654; 1968, c. 659, § 62.1-182; 1978, c. 598; 1982, c. 232; 1987, c. 488; 1997, c. 522; 1999, c. 489; 2001, c. 649.

§ 29.1-744.1. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1998, c. 537, effective January 1, 1999.

§ 29.1-744.2. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1998, c. 857, effective January 1, 1999.

§ 29.1-744.3. Slacken speed and control wakes near structures.

It shall be unlawful to operate any motorboat, except a personal watercraft, at a speed greater than the slowest possible speed required to maintain steerage and headway when within 50 feet or less of docks, piers, boathouses, boat ramps, or a person in the water, unless such person in the water (i) is being towed by the motorboat or (ii) is accompanying the motorboat, provided that such motorboat is propelled by an inboard motor or a means of propulsion that is below the water line and forward of (a) the transom or (b) an integrated swim platform.

1998, c. 857; 2012, c. 700; 2018, cc. 117, 637.

§ 29.1-744.4. "Pass-through" zones; local ordinances; penalties.

After providing notice to the Department, any locality may, by ordinance, establish "pass-through" zones in any portion of a waterway within its territorial limits where congestion of watercraft traffic routinely poses a significant safety risk to persons in such designated area. The ordinance shall provide that while in a pass-through zone, operators of watercraft shall maintain a reasonable and safe speed and shall be prohibited from stopping, anchoring, loitering, or otherwise engaging in recreational activity. The locality shall clearly identify pass-through zones by buoys or other markers that conform to the general requirements as established by the Board for similar buoys or markers. The locality may provide for enforcement and penalties, not to exceed a Class 4 misdemeanor, for the violation of the ordinance.

2003, c. 780.

§ 29.1-745. Enforcement of chapter; vessels displaying Coast Guard inspection decal.

A. Every conservation police officer, officer of the Virginia Marine Police, and other law-enforcement officer of the Commonwealth and its subdivisions shall have the authority to enforce the provisions of this chapter and shall have authority to stop, board, and inspect any vessel subject to this chapter after having identified himself in his official capacity. Except for enforcement of § 29.1-738 and the requirement of having the registration certificate on board, the provisions of this subsection shall not apply to any vessel of 26 feet or more in length on which is displayed a current valid United States Coast Guard or United States Coast Guard Auxiliary inspection decal.

B. Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection A, no conservation police officer, officer of the Virginia Marine Police, or other law-enforcement officer shall, without the consent of the owner, stop, board, or inspect any noncommercial vessel subject to this chapter unless such officer has reasonable suspicion that a violation of law or regulation exists, except that conservation police officers and officers of the Virginia Marine Police may conduct lawful stops or boardings to inspect hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses pursuant to §§ 28.2-231 and 29.1-337 or to inspect creel and bag limits pursuant to § 29.1-209 and may conduct lawful boating safety checkpoints in accordance with established agency policy.

1960, c. 500, § 62-174.17; 1964, c. 654; 1968, c. 659, § 62.1-184; 1980, c. 567; 1987, c. 488; 2007, c. 87; 2015, c. 484.

§ 29.1-746. Penalties.

A. Unless specified otherwise, any person who violates any provision of this chapter or any regulation adopted under this chapter shall be guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor for each such violation.

B. Upon the conviction of any person for the violation of any provision of this chapter or any regulation adopted thereunder for which the criminal penalty is a Class 3 misdemeanor or greater, the court shall order the person to complete and pass a boating safety course approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and accepted by the Department. A list of such courses shall be made available by the Department. Any person who has been ordered by the court to complete and pass a boating safety course shall submit to the court, in a form approved by the Department, proof of completion and passage of the course within six months of the time of his conviction. If the person who has been required to complete and pass a boating safety course is under 18 years of age, the court may require the person to obtain parental consent to enroll in the course. If the person does not complete and pass the boating safety course within the prescribed time period, the court may, for good cause, extend the period for completion; however, absent good cause, the court shall impose a fine not to exceed $250.

1960, c. 500, § 62-174.18; 1962, c. 626; 1964, c. 654; 1968, c. 659, § 62.1-185; 1984, c. 417; 1987, c. 488; 2006, c. 23.