Negligent Operation of a Watercraft: A.R.S. 5-341

In Arizona, negligent operation of a watercraft is a crime.

Negligent Operation of a Watercraft

In the Arizona desert, boating on our many lakes and rivers is a common pastime. In fact, VisitArizona has a full listing of our state’s most popular bodies of water available for recreational boating use, with Lake Powell and Lake Havasu a the very top in popularity and other mentions for Watson Lake, Lake Pleasant, Tempe Town Lake, and the Colorado River.

Of course, good times come to a halt if you find yourself charged on the water with negligent operation of a watercraft or water skis. Per A.R.S. 5-341, no watercraft is permitted to be operated in a careless, reckless, or negligent manner. This includes:

  • Allowing a person to ride on the gunwales, transom, or decked over the bow of any watercraft that is machine-propelled and operating in excess of wakeless speed. (This excludes watercrafts that were designed for the purpose of carrying passengers at all speeds and watercrafts being maneuvered for anchoring, mooring, or casting off moorings).
  • Operating a watercraft with passengers on the bow in a way that obstructs the operator’s view.
  • Surfing, water-skiing, or using similar contrivances in a careless, reckless, or negligent manner.
  • Allowing a person under age twelve to operate a motor-propelled watercraft without a legal adult present, except in cases of emergency.

A transom is the flat surface at the back of a boat, while gunwales are the side edges of a boat.

Violations of this statute are class 2 misdemeanors, which can be fined up to nearly $1000.

In 2022, Brandon Messick of Today’s News Herald reported that the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office had been issuing an ever-growing number of citations for negligent watercraft operation in the area, particularly on Lake Havasu. The article can be read here.

Don’t let your good time be ruined by a misdemeanor charge. Be aware of the boating rules in the area you are visiting. If you have been charged with negligent operation of a watercraft anywhere in Arizona, give Rideout Law Group a call today.



With offices in Lake Havasu City and Scottsdale, our firm serves the entire state of Arizona, with a particular focus on criminal defense, family law, and juvenile cases.

Our goal is for the best outcome for your criminal case, which can include:

  • charges that are reduced or dropped.
  • top experts reviewing your case.
  • aggressive negotiations with the prosecution for plea bargains.
  • fines or probation in lieu of jail time.

At Rideout Law Group, our attorneys are able to expertly examine the evidence in your case to provide a strong strategy for argument that leads to an outcome that is most favorable to you. We have experience in all types of criminal cases for both adults and juveniles, with positive outcomes both in plea negotiations as well as jury trial settings.

Call us today for a free consultation at 480-584-3328.

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