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

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

By , Attorney · University of San Francisco School of Law

Indiana has laws, much like its DUI laws, that make it illegal to operate a boat while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. This article explains how Indiana's boating while intoxicated (BWI) laws work and the penalties you'll face for a BWI conviction.

Indiana's Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) Law

Indiana law prohibits operating a motorboat while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol.

Indiana's BWI Law Applies Only to Motorized Boats

In some states, it's legal to operate any boat or vessel while under the influence. But Indiana's BWI laws apply only to "motorboats." The term "motorboat" includes jet skis and sailboats that are using a motor or engine.

How Indiana's BWI Law Defines "Intoxicated"

A person can be convicted of boating while intoxicated (BWI) for operating a motorboat while:

  • under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or any other intoxicating substance "so that there is an impaired condition of thought and action and the loss of normal control of an individual's faculties"
  • having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater, or
  • having any amount of a controlled substance in the body.

So, a BWI can be based on actual impairment or the amount of drugs or alcohol in a person's system.

Penalties for Operating a Boat While Intoxicated in Indiana

The consequences of an Indiana BWI depend on the circumstances of the case. But, generally, the penalties for a BWI conviction are structured around whether the boater has prior convictions and whether the current offense involved injuries or deaths.

Penalties for a 1st BWI Conviction in Indiana

Most first-offense BWIs are class C misdemeanors and carry up to 60 days in jail and a maximum of $500 in fines.

Penalties for a 2nd or Subsequent BWI Conviction in Indiana

When a BWI offender has at least one prior BUI conviction, the judge generally can sentence the current BWI as a class A misdemeanor or level 6 felony.

Class A misdemeanors carry up to a year in jail and a maximum of $5,000 in fines. Level 6 felonies carry between six months and two and one-half years in jail and up to $10,000 in fines.

Penalties for BWIs Involving Serious Injuries in Indiana

Where a BWI involves serious bodily injury to another, the judge can sentence the offense as a class A misdemeanor or level 6 felony (see "repeat offense" above).

Penalties for BWIs Involving Fatalities in Indiana

A BWI involving death to another person is a level 5 felony and generally carries between one and six years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

Talk to an Indiana DUI Attorney

If you've been arrested for or charged with boating under the influence in Indiana, get in contact with an experienced DUI/BWI attorney. The facts of every case are different. A good DUI 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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