Perspectives

Boating Under the Influence – What You Should Know

We all know drunk driving has become a major problem throughout the United States but what about drunk boating? With our bright sunny days and beautiful lakes, boats are an attractive place to spend many days in the summer in both Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Most states, like Minnesota and Wisconsin, have boating laws but just how big is the problem? According to The U.S. Coast Guard 2018 Recreational Boating Statistics released June 2, 2020, there were 633 boating fatalities nationwide in 2018, with alcohol leading the known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, accounting for 100 deaths or 19% of fatalities.

These laws are enforced but citations can be avoided if you have the right information. Please see below for a list of most commonly asked questions about boating under the influence.

1. Can I have alcohol on my boat?
Yes, open container laws do not apply to boats, meaning you are able to have an open container of alcohol on it. You are also able to openly consume it, as long as you are 21 or older.

2. Do Police enforce laws against boat operators drinking? If so, how?
Police do enforce these laws. These laws are most commonly enforced by safety checkpoints. Like roadside DWI checkpoints, police are able to set up BWI checkpoints as well. Law enforcement can stop, inspect, and test boaters for sobriety in the same manner they do in roadside checks on state highways. Those often include preliminary breath and field sobriety tests. Some states do not even require probable cause to do so.

3. What are the consequences?
The consequences of a BWI are like those of a DWI. Along with likely losing your boating license, you could also have a criminal record, lose your driver’s license, and pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in fines to the court if convicted. These convictions can further affect your boat and car insurance rates, making you a more high risk driver if you are charged or convicted of a crime involving alcohol. If you are a commercial driver, the consequences could be devastating.

4. How can I avoid these charges?
First and foremost, avoid alcohol while operating your boat. You can further avoid these charges by knowing the areas boating laws, making sure everyone on your boat wear their life vests while following other safety rules, and by taking courses on safe boating.

If you have specific questions or wish to speak to an attorney regarding your case or any of the information above, please reach out to one of our experienced attorneys for a free case analysis.

Posted by Alyssa Johnson | July 15, 2020