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Patrols are on the water seeking to enforce Minnesota BWI laws

Patrols are on the water seeking to enforce Minnesota BWI laws

Warm temperatures and beautiful weather usually means that more Minnesotans are enjoying our state’s extensive waterways. Summer is a time for many to head out on the water for an afternoon of boating. But, law enforcement agencies and the Department of Natural Resources may be out on the waters for other purposes.

While open bottle issues in a boat are not something that adult boaters over the age of 21 typically worry much about (drivers of a car are prohibited from having or allowing an open bottle in the motor vehicle), Minnesota law does prohibit boating while impaired. A BWI charge in many ways may resemble DWI charges in Minnesota. The legal limit for a boat operator is set at 0.08 percent BAC. Likewise, officials tend to patrol our lakes and rivers looking for reasons to investigate boaters for alleged safety violations. Those safety probes may also lead to BWI charges.

Followers of this blog may understand that law enforcement generally needs some legal basis to conduct a traffic stop on our state’s roads. The bar is not set necessarily high—a minor equipment or traffic violation may be sufficient to support the stop.

Similarly, DNR officials and law enforcement agencies look for boating safety violations on the water. One DNR official recently told WCCO-TV News that the number one reason officials check out a boat is based upon allegations that a boat operator was driving a boat with “people hanging outside the boat.” He says that, on the water, law enforcement does “have traffic lanes. We don’t have traffic lights, turn signals or gauges that are signs of possible intoxication,” according to CBS Minnesota. Life preserver issues may also be involved in boating safety.

The DNR says that last year 158 people were accused of BWI—nearly one-quarter of those charges arose during the Fourth of July holiday weekend. A BWI charge can have harsh consequences, and any boater accused of drunk boating in Minnesota may wish to consult with a Twin Cities DWI defense lawyer for assistance dealing with the legal and constitutional issues involved with criminal charges.

Source: CBS Minnesota WCCO-TV, “What Are The Rules With Boating And Drinking?,” Rachel Slavik, July 4, 2013

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