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Alcohol and Drugs

Author / Coordinator: Boat Minnesota
March 2007

Minnesota law prohibits anyone from boating while intoxicated (BWI)—that is, operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance or other illegal chemical. Alcohol and drugs cause impaired balance, blurred vision, poor coordination, impaired judgment (you’re more inclined to take risks when drinking), and slow reaction time. Alcohol contributes to about one-third of all boating accidents nationwide. Click here to read more about the effects and risks of consuming alcohol.

Minnesota law states that a person is considered to be boating while intoxicated (BWI) if he or she:

  • Has a blood or breath alcohol concentration of 0.10 or greater or…
  • Is under the influence of alcohol or…
  • Is under the influence of a controlled substance or any other illegal chemical

Operators who are impaired may be required to take tests by an enforcement officer to determine their sobriety. Persons who refuse testing will be subject to a separate criminal charge for refusal plus loss of their boating privileges for one year, immediately upon refusal.

First time violators are subject to a fine up to $1,000 plus surcharges and/or jail time and/or loss of boating privileges for 90 days during the boating season, upon conviction and notification by the DNR.

If any of the following aggravating factors are involved, the offense automatically becomes a gross misdemeanor and penalties can increase to the felony level.

  • An alcohol concentration of .20 or more
  • A prior DWI conviction or refusal(s) of any kind in the past 10 years
  • A passenger younger than 16 years on board

It is illegal for the owner of a vessel to knowingly allow the vessel to be operated by someone under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance or any other illegal chemical

The best thing you can do for your safety and the safety of your passengers is simple — Don’t drink and boat!

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