Boating While Intoxicated

The Legal Limit
The alcohol concentration for impaired operation is .08. Operating a motorboat while under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance (or its metabolite), or other illegal chemical is unlawful.

Penalty Information
Operators who are impaired may be required to take tests by an enforcement officer. There is a penalty for refusal. BWI convictions and refusals are recorded on the violator’s driver’s license record. Most of the BWI law is now found in the motor vehicle statutes, and first time violators (no prior DWIs of any kind) who are convicted are subject to:
  • up to a $1,000 fine plus surcharges
  • possible jail time
  • loss of motorboat operating privileges for 90 days during the boating season, after conviction and written notification by the DNR
In addition to the above penalties, persons who refuse testing will also be subject to a separate and more severe criminal charge for refusal and loss of their motorboat operating privileges for one year, immediately upon refusal.

Elevated Offenses
If any of the following aggravating factors are involved, the offense automatically becomes a gross misdemeanor (a 4th conviction in 10 years can result in a felony penalty):
  • an alcohol concentration of .20 or more
  • prior DWI conviction(s) or refusal(s) of any kind in the past 10 years
  • there is a child less than 16 years of age on board
Penalties will increase with any of the aggravating factors or a refusal, and can include the following:
  • a higher fine
  • mandatory jail time
  • loss of motor vehicle drivers license
  • loss of motor vehicle plates
  • forfeiture of the motorboat and trailer being operated at the time of arrest
Be Responsible
The BWI law does not prohibit drinking alcoholic beverages aboard boats nor having an open bottle. The law applies to operators of motorboats that are not anchored, beached, moored, docked or being rowed or propelled by non-mechanical means at the time of the offense.

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