drunk_boaterMany Minnesotans enjoy boating in Minnesota’s ten thousand lakes.  During boating season, thousands of Minnesota residents and visitors will visit the lakes and go boating.  Boating at the lakeshore is one of the many benefits of living in Minnesota.  However, boating comes with the same responsibilities required for driving.  These responsibilities include not driving a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  Boating under the influence is referred to as BUI or BWI, boating while intoxicated.

The first thing Minnesota boat operators should be aware of is that unlike driving, where open containers are not allowed and no one may consume alcohol inside the vehicle, alcohol may be consumed on a boat.  This is true even while the boat is operational.  However, the driver may not operate the boat while drinking or under the influence of drugs.

Boating under the influences comes with many of the same consequences as driving under the influence.  A driver’s license can be suspended or taken away if convicted of boating under the influence.  Any person operating a boat with an alcohol concentration over .08 is guilty of boating while intoxicated.   A first conviction of boating while intoxicated carries a fine of $1,000.00, possible jail time and loss of motorboat operating privileges for 90 days during boating season.  These penalties can be increased if there are aggravating factors, such as an alcohol concentration of over .20, prior boating under the influence or driving under the influence convictions or a child under the age of 16 years old being present on the boat.  Increased penalties may include higher fines, jail time, loss of driver’s license and/or forfeiture of the boat and trailer.

Minnesota’s waterways are patrolled by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource conservation officers as well as county sheriffs.  These officers have the authority to enforce Minnesota boating laws.  There are other waterways in Minnesota that may be under federal jurisdiction and patrolled by the United States Coast Guard and the National Park Service.  Operators of boats are required to stop for these officers just as drivers are required to stop for police.

If an officer believes a boat operator is impaired, he or she may be asked to perform sobriety tests, just as a driver on the roads would be.  Boat operators that refuse to undergo sobriety tests are subject to the same penalties that drivers who refuse sobriety tests are subject to.  The penalties include a criminal charge for refusing the tests as well as loss of motorboat operation privileges for one year.

It is up to all Minnesota boaters to be responsible when hitting the water with their motorboat and having alcohol on board.  In addition to criminal charges, boaters are more likely to crash their boat.  Boating accidents cause damage to vehicles and can cause injuries.  These injuries and damages increase significantly when the operator of the boat under the influence of drugs and alcohol.  Let’s keep Minnesota waterways safe for everyone, do not drink and operate a boat under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.