Arkansas's Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) Laws and Penalties

Read about the consequences—including fines and possible jail time—of boating while intoxicated (BWI) in Arkansas.

Arkansas law prohibits operating or being in actual physical control of a motorboat while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. The term “motorboat” means “any vessel operated upon water and that is propelled by machinery, whether or not the machinery is the principal source of propulsion.” A person can be convicted of boating while intoxicated (BWI) (also called "boating under the influence" or "BUI") for operating a motorboat while:

  • impaired by drugs, alcohol, or any other intoxicating substance “to such a degree that the driver's reactions, motor skills, and judgment are substantially altered and the driver, therefore, constitutes a clear and substantial danger of physical injury or death to himself or herself or another person,” or
  • having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater.

In other words, you can get a BWI for operating a boat with an excessive blood alcohol concentration or while drunk or high on drugs.

BWI Penalties

The consequences of an Arkansas BWI depend on the circumstances. But generally, a BWI is an “unclassified” misdemeanor, and the possible penalties are:

  • First offense. A first-offense BWI generally carries one day to one year in jail, $100 to $1,000 in fines, and a six-month driver’s license suspension. If, however, the convicted boater had a passenger under the age of 16, the minimum jail time is seven days. Instead of jail, a judge can order an offender to do public service.
  • Second offense. A second-offense BWI generally carries seven days to one year in jail, $400 to $3,000 in fines, and a 24-month driver’s license suspension. If, however, the convicted boater had a passenger under the age of 16, the minimum jail time is 30 days. Instead of jail, a judge can order an offender to do public service for a minimum of 30 days (60 days if there was a passenger under 16 years old).
  • Third offense. A third-offense BWI generally carries 90 days to one year in jail, $900 to $5,000 in fines, and a 30-month driver’s license suspension. If, however, the convicted boater had a passenger under the age of 16, the minimum jail time is 120 days. Instead of jail, a judge can order an offender to do public service for a minimum of 90 days (120 days if there was a passenger under 16 years old).

For purposes of determining whether a BUI is a second or subsequent offense, only prior BUI convictions that occurred within the past five years count.

In addition to the other penalties, all BWI offenders generally must complete an alcohol education program.

Talk to an Attorney

If you’ve been arrested for or charged with boating under the influence in Arkansas, get in contact with an experienced BWI attorney. The facts of every case are different. A good BWI attorney should be able to explain how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on your best course of action.

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