Just the same way all states have drunk driving laws, every state has laws against boating while impaired (BWI). Minnesota is no different. The laws empower law enforcement agencies to stop motorized watercraft if there is reasonable suspicion the operator has been drinking. Contravening these laws may limit your legal freedom and attract financial penalties. You could face jail time, have a criminal record, pay hefty fines and pay higher insurance rates.
The high number of injuries and fatalities from boating accidents caused by drugs and alcohol led to the passing and enactment of the laws that expand DWI principles to Minnesota's lakes and rivers. Regardless of the type of motorized watercraft you operate, you may face BWI charges if found to be operating it under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The number of boating accidents tends to rise in warmer weather, making it important to understand the relevant boating safety requirements as well as how the different laws affect you.
The impact of alcohol-related hazards is higher on water than on land, making it necessary to legislate against the operation of watercraft under the influence of alcohol and narcotics. Factors such as noise, sun, heat, glare, and wind are commonly known as "boater's fatigue." These factors can undermine the physical and mental abilities of a boat operator while on the water. When alcohol and drugs combine with boater's fatigue, it becomes extremely difficult to operate any vessel on water.
Consequences of a BWI conviction
If you are convicted of a BWI offense, you are likely to have a criminal record. While recreational motor boat operators could lose their licenses, the same consequences would also mean a loss of livelihood for commercial boat operators and commercial drivers.
How to prevent and deal with BWI
To ensure that everyone in water vessels is safe, boat operators should be extra careful during busy weekends. It is also important that they familiarize themselves with the local boating regulations and ensure that everyone wears life vests.
In case you are charged with a BWI offense, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer who has a strong command of Minnesota's DWI laws and how they apply to boat-related offenses.