Men cheersing beers on a boat

Can I Be Arrested for Boating While Intoxicated?

Wisconsin Boating While Intoxicated Charges

Boating while impaired is known as a BWI in Wisconsin; making operating a motorboat while intoxicated is just as dangerous (and illegal) as operating a car while intoxicated. If you’re planning to have a few nautical drinks with friends, here’s what you need to know to stay safe.

Wisconsin Boating Consent Laws

Field sobriety tests are still conducted in Wisconsin — even if you’re out on the water. This means that every person that operates a motorboat automatically consents to a breath, blood, or urine test conducted by a law enforcement official if they are suspected of boating drunk.

Penalties for a BWI

The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is 0.08 in Wisconsin, whether you’re operating a car or boat. If your BAC is over the limit, you can be arrested and charged with boating while intoxicated and are subject to many of the same penalties as a DWI. A BWI will not affect your driver’s license, but a second offense will result in jail time. Below is an overview of the possible penalties you could accrue:

  • First offense: $150 to $300 in fines.
  • Second offense (two prior within the past five years): five days to six months in jail and $300 to $1,000 in fines.
  • Third offense (two prior within the past five years): 30 days to one year in jail and $600 to $2,000 in fines.
  • BWI involving injury: 30 days to one year in jail and $300 to $2,000 in fines.
  • Anyone convicted must complete a state-approved boating safety program.
  • A judge may also order the completion of a substance abuse program.

Commercial Boating

As with driving a commercial truck or car, the BAC limit is lower for commercial boating. If you’re found operating a commercial motorboat while intoxicated, you can be charged with a BWI if your BAC level is 0.04 or higher.

What About My Boating Privileges?

Additionally, you could be prohibited from using your boat if arrested with a BWI. If you are suspected to have contributed to another person’s injury on the water, you could face other penalties — potentially including loss of boating rights and prison time.

BWI Defense in Sheboygan

If you’ve been charged with a BWI in Wisconsin, it’s important to seek help from an experienced BWI attorney as soon as possible. At Melowski & Singh, LLC, we’ve handled numerous DUI cases, with 1,000+ resulting in dismissals or reductions of charges.

Backed by years of experience and a thorough understanding of the law, we can answer your questions and skillfully guide you through the process of resolving your drinking and driving matter. Contact us by calling (920) 294-1414 or filling out our online form today.