Wisconsin's Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) Laws and Conviction Penalties

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

By , Attorney

In Wisconsin, it's not only illegal to drive a car while under the influence of drugs or alcohol but also to operate a boat while intoxicated. This article explains Wisconsin's boating while intoxicated (BWI) laws and the penalties you'll face for a BWI conviction.

Wisconsin's Law Prohibiting Boating While Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol

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

How Wisconsin Law Defines "Intoxicated"

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

  • impaired by drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two to "a degree which renders him or her incapable of safe motorboat operation"
  • having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater (.04% for commercial boaters), or
  • having a "detectable amount" of a controlled substance in the blood.

In other words, a BWI can be based on the amount of drugs or alcohol in the boater's system or actual impairment from drugs or alcohol.

Wisconsin's Boating While Intoxicated Law Applies Only to Motorized Boats

In many states, you can be convicted of boating under the influence on almost any type of boat or vessel, including rowboats, sailboats, and the like. But in Wisconsin, you can get a BWI only on a motorized boat or vessel.

Wisconsin's Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) Penalties

The consequences of a Wisconsin BWI depend on the facts of the case. Generally, the penalties you'll face depend on how many BWI convictions you have that occurred within the past five years and whether anyone was injured.

Penalties for a 1st Boating While Intoxicated Offense in Wisconsin

A first-offense BWI generally carries $150 to $300 in fines but no jail time.

Penalties for a 2nd Boating While Intoxicated Offense in Wisconsin

Where a BWI offender has had one prior BWI conviction within the past five years, the second BWI carries five days to six months in jail and $300 to $1,000 in fines.

Penalties for a 3rd Boating While Intoxicated Offense in Wisconsin

Where a BWI offender has had two prior BWI convictions within the past five years, the third BWI carries 30 days to one year in jail and $600 to $2,000 in fines.

Penalties for a Wisconsin BWI Involving Injuries

If a BWI offender "causes injury" to another person while boating under the influence, the offense carries 30 days to one year in jail and $300 to $2,000 in fines.

Substance Abuse Treatment and Boating Safety Course for Wisconsin BWI Offenders

Judges must order all BWI offenders to be assessed for and comply with recommended substance abuse treatment. And anyone convicted of a BWI must complete a state-approved boating safety program.

Talk to an Attorney

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