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Minnesota’s DWI/DUI laws include a broad list of “motor vehicles” such as ATVs, snowmobiles, and motorboats. Therefore, those who choose to drink alcohol and drive a boat could be charged with a BWI (Boating While Intoxicated). This charge carries the same penalties that someone would face if arrested for operating or being in physical control of a motor vehicle while intoxicated or impaired. There are four degrees possible for the charge, and a first time offender will most likely face up to 90 days in jail and/or a max $1,000 fine.

There are a few important similarities to note about how a BWI’s aggravating factors compare to a DWI:

  • Minnesota’s implied consent law also applies to BWI, and a person could face jail time for test refusal.
  • Prior convictions of a DWI or BWI in the 10 years prior can be used against you in court.
  • Having a blood alcohol level of .16% or greater will result in a higher degree of BWI charge.
  • Having a passenger under 16 years old in the boat could result in a higher degree BWI charge.

If aggravating factors like the ones noted above are applied to your charge, the charge could be elevated to a felony. A felony BWI could result in consequences such as up to three to seven years in jail, up to $14,000 in fines, loss of boating privileges, and revocation of a driver’s license. In more extreme cases, the convicted could even face plate impoundment of their motor vehicles and forfeiture of the boat involved in the arrest.

Those planning to boat this summer should remember these penalties when considering drinking or using drugs while operating a boat. Be aware that Minnesota has strict consequences for those caught with a blood level alcohol level above .08%, or those usings substances that impare their ability to safely operate the boat. Our defense lawyers are experienced in the DWI/BWI laws in Minnesota, and can help represent you or someone you know in court if they’ve been arrested.