Summertime is here, meaning people throughout Minnesota will be hoping the weather will allow them plenty of time to have fun boating in the Land Of 10,000 Lakes.

However, sometimes people have a little too much fun while boating, forgetting that there are laws in place regarding driving a boat.

It's important to remember that just like driving a vehicle under the influence (DWI), it is illegal to be intoxicated and operate a boat (BWI) in all 50 states, with each state enforcing its unique penalties for those caught boating under the influence.

Boating Under The Influence In Minnesota

While you are allowed to have open containers of alcohol in Minnesota, there are limits on how much the driver can consume. The same intoxication limits apply to DWI and BWI offenses in Minnesota, and the sentences for offenders are also similar.

Minnesota has some of the nation’s strongest BWI laws. People convicted of drinking and driving, whether they’re driving a boat, motor vehicle, or recreational vehicle, lose their privilege to operate any of them, regardless of what they were caught driving while under the influence. The minimum length of a driver’s license revocation is 90 days.

The legal blood alcohol limit in Minnesota is 0.08%. According to legal sources, the punishment you’ll receive for a BWI conviction in Minnesota depends on the degree of the offense.

The state has four degrees of BWI offenses, which is the same for DWI. A fourth-degree BWI is the least serious, with first offenses typically receiving this charge unless aggravating factors exist.

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The penalties for a first-time, fourth-degree BWI charge in Minnesota include:

  • Up to $1,000 in fines
  • Up to 90 days in jail
  • Loss of boating and driving motor vehicle privileges. The minimum length of a driver's license revocation is 90 days, and concerning boating privileges, these days must fall during the boating season.

BWI charge can be upgraded if certain aggravating factors are present. Your charge can be upgraded if you have:

  • A BAC above 0.16
  • A prior BWI or DWI on your record within the last 10 years
  • A child under the age of 16 on the boat at the time of arrest

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If aggravating factors exist, then penalties increase. Legal sources say that a first-degree conviction carries potential sentences of up to $14,000 in fines and between three and seven years in prison. You also lose boating and driving motor vehicle privileges.

Extra Enforcement On Minnesota Waters During 4th Of July Weekend

4th Of July weekend hopefully means a lot of fun with family and friends, but it's also a time when alcohol can, unfortunately, lead to some bad decisions with things like fireworks and recreational activities such as boating.

That is why Operation Dry Water was created. While it's a year-round effort, it gets emphasized during summertime holidays because there are more boats on Minnesota and Wisconsin lakes and a greater chance for alcohol-related tragedies.

The Minnesota DNR stresses that boating while intoxicated is the leading contributing factor in boating accidents and fatalities. In recent years, nearly half the fatal boating incidents in Minnesota involved alcohol.

The annual weekend Operation Dry Water campaign not only draws attention to those sobering facts, while creating a heightened awareness of boating under the influence laws and penalties, it also puts more enforcement on Minnesota waters.

Law enforcement officers will be on heightened alert from Thursday, July 4 through Saturday, July 6 looking for those violating boating under the influence laws.

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