The Legal Requirements of Boating
Alcohol and Drugs
Minnesota law prohibits anyone from boating while intoxicated (BWI)—that is, operating a motorboat 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, and slower reaction time. Alcohol contributes to about one-third of all fatal boating accidents nationwide. 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 0.08 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 given 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 beginning 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 motorboat to knowingly allow the boat to be operated by someone under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or any other illegal chemical.