Most people understand that driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (commonly called DWI) is dangerous and against the law. However, not everyone understands that the same principles apply to boating.
For a lot of people, having a few beers out on the lake is a highlight of summer in Minnesota. But, boating under the influence of alcohol is against the law. If drinking is going to be a part of your fishing opener, make sure you don’t inadvertently put yourself or others at risk.
BWI laws and penalties
The law is very clear on operating a motorboat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It is a crime, just like drinking and driving. You can get charged with boating while intoxicated (BWI) if you are caught operating a motorboat with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher.
Even a first offense can carry serious penalties. You can be fined up to $1,000 and can lose your boating privileges for 90 days – that’s basically the whole summer. Depending on the circumstances of the case, you could also go to jail.
The penalties will be even more severe if you have a previous DWI or BWI conviction, if your blood alcohol level is greater than .16, or if there is a child under age 16 in the boat. These offenses will be charged as gross misdemeanors.
Have a designated driver
The easiest way to avoid a BWI is to have a designated driver, just like you would for a car when you go out with friends. If you’re going to be out on the lake for the whole weekend, consider sharing this duty amongst the group.
Save the drinking for when the day is done
Another way to protect yourself from BWI is by waiting to drink until you’re off the lake and done with the boat. Stick to pop, lemonade or water while you’re boating, and save the alcohol for later in the evening. Once you come in from the lake and are home for the night, you can grill up the day’s catch and crack open a few beers.
If you get in trouble, call a lawyer
If you do get stopped by the DNR or the Sherriff, take the allegations seriously. It is in your best interest to get help from a lawyer as soon as possible, even if you think you’re guilty. You’d be surprised at the extent to which a criminal conviction can impact other areas of your life.