Minnesota's Boating While Intoxicated Laws

Read about Minnesota’s boating while intoxicated (BWI) laws and the consequences of a conviction.

Minnesota law prohibits operating or being in actual physical control of a motorboat while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. A person can be convicted of boating while intoxicated (BWI) for operating a motorboat while:

  • impaired by alcohol or drugs to an extent that the person does not “possess that clearness of intellect and that control … that the [person] otherwise would have,” or
  • having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater.

(Minn. Stat. Ann. §§ 86B.331(c), 169A.20 (2016); State v. Graham, 176 Minn. 164 (1929).)

BWI Degrees and Penalties

In Minnesota, there are four degrees of BWI. Each type of BWI carries different penalties.

First-degree BWI. A BWI offender can be convicted of first-degree boating while intoxicated if the person has:

  • three or more prior BWI or DWI convictions that occurred within the past ten years
  • a prior first-degree BWI or DWI conviction, or
  • a prior felony conviction for certain types of vehicular homicide.

A first-degree BWI is a felony and generally carries up to $14,000 in fines and three to seven years in prison. (Minn. Stat. Ann. §§ 169A.24, 169A.276 (2016).)

Second-degree BWI. A BWI offender can be convicted of second-degree boating while intoxicated if the person:

  • has two or more prior BWI or DWI convictions that occurred within the past ten years, or
  • refused to submit to chemical testing in violation of Minnesota’s implied consent laws and has one prior BWI or DWI conviction that occurred with the past ten years.

A second-degree BWI is a “gross misdemeanor” and generally carries 90 days to one year in jail and up to $3,000 in fines. (Minn. Stat. Ann. §§ 169A.25, 169A.275(2), 609.03 (2016).)

Third-degree BWI. A BWI offender can be convicted of third-degree boating while intoxicated if the person:

  • has one prior BWI or DWI conviction that occurred within the past ten years, or
  • refused to submit to chemical testing in violation of Minnesota’s implied consent laws.

A third-degree BWI is a gross misdemeanor and generally carries up to $3,000 in fines and either 48 hours to one year in jail or at least 80 hours of community service. (Minn. Stat. Ann. §§ 169A.26, 169A.275(1), 609.03 (2016).)

Fourth-degree BWI. A standard first offense is a fourth degree BWI, a misdemeanor. Convicted boaters typically face up to 90 days in jail and/or a maximum of $1,000 in fines. (Minn. Stat. Ann. §§ 169A.27, 609.03 (2016).)

Boating Privileges Suspension

All boaters convicted of a BWI will have their boating privileges suspended for at least 90 days. The period of suspension must be between May 1 and Oct 31 and may span two consecutive years. (Minn. Stat. Ann. § 86B.331(c) (2016).)

HOW MUCH TIME WOULD YOU ACTUALLY SPEND IN JAIL?

Sentencing law is complex. For example, a statute might list a “minimum” jail sentence that’s longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including credits for good in-custody behavior and jail-alternative work programs.

If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your jurisdiction will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.

Talk to an Attorney

The consequences of a Minnesota BWI are serious, and the facts of every case are different. If you’ve been arrested for boating under the influence, get in touch with an experienced BWI lawyer. A qualified attorney can explain how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on the best course of action.

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