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Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) in Minnesota

Lake life. A Minnesota summer staple. As people flock to cabins, lakes, and rivers, getting out on the water is a must while the temperature is above freezing. As boaters take to the water, the DNR and other law enforcement agencies are patrolling to enforce fishing regulations, boating registration, and even Boating While Intoxicated (BWI).

What happens if you arrested for Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) in Minnesota?

Criminally, the process operates similarly to a DWI. First-time offenders are subject to a misdemeanor offense – up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, unless an aggravating factor[1] is present or a refusal[2] applies. For repeat offenders, as long as it is not their fourth DWI-related incident within the previous ten years and they do not have a prior felony DWI, they will face a gross misdemeanor charge – up to 365 days in jail and a $3,000 fine.[3] For those with a prior felony DWI conviction, or their fourth incident within 10 years, then they will face a felony charge and potential prison time.

Civilly, a BWI will only impact your driver’s license if you have a prior DWI-related incident. But, the State will take away your boating privileges. If you have no prior BWIs or DWIs, then you will not lose your driver’s license. However, you will lose your boating privileges for 90 days during the boating season of May to October and for one year if you refuse an evidentiary test. Similar to the implied consent process for challenging driver’s license revocations, you can challenge your boating privileges being taken away through either an administrative or judicial review. For those with prior DWI-related incidents, your driver’s license will also be subject to revocation with the same administrative and judicial review options. 

Importantly, the boat must have a motor for you to be at risk of a BWI. If the boat is being rowed or propelled by non-mechanical means, then it is similar to you riding your bike wasted. No need to worry about a DWI or BWI. These laws focus on motorized vehicles and vessels.

For a free consultation call us at 651-800-4842; email us at; or fill out the form below.

Robert H. Ambrose is a criminal defense lawyer and DWI attorney in St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Super Lawyers named him a Rising Star for the past two years; The National Trial Lawyer’s Organization named him a Top 40 Under 40 Trial Lawyer the past four years; and he is a member of the National College of DUI Defense. DWI attorneys St. Paul; Minnesota BWI lawyer; and St. Paul DUI lawyer.

[1] Aggravating factors include testing at least twice the legal limit, having a child under 16 years old aboard, or having a prior DWI-related incident within the previous 10 years.

[2] Currently refusing an evidentiary breath test is a crime; and refusing a blood or urine test if accompanied by a warrant.

[3] Importantly, in virtually every county in the state, it is incredibly rare for anyone to receive the maximum sentence. But, everyone’s case is different and should be assessed carefully.



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