Can you get an OWI on your boat?

On Behalf of | Mar 27, 2019 | Firm News

On behalf of Chris Van Wagner of Christopher T. Van Wagner S.C. Criminal Defense posted in DUI on Wednesday, March 27, 2019.

Now that the snow has finally started to melt, many in Wisconsin are turning their attention to the lake.

Yes, boating season is coming. Which means it’s a good idea to review the laws around watercraft and drinking. After all, you want to catch a trophy fish not a night in jail.

Wisconsin’s watercraft regulations

As you probably know, Wisconsin holds the same .08 BAC limit for boat operators as it does for automobiles. Those out on the water need to be responsible about their alcohol use. If you find yourself facing a BWI (boating while intoxicated) charge, it can be expensive.

Like standard OWI charges, the penalties increase with the number of convictions. Here are the penalties Wisconsin gives to those who are charged with a BWI:

  • First offense: A fine of up to $300.
  • Second offense: If this conviction comes within five years of your first, you face a fine of up to $1,000 and five days up to six months in jail.
  • Third offense: Again, if two other convictions are within five years, you face up to $2,000 and a jail sentence of 60 days to a year.

When you are out on the water, keep these penalties in mind and monitor your alcohol consumption if you are driving a boat.

Alcohol on the water

There are a few differences when it comes to consuming alcohol on the lake versus on land. These differences can cause your tolerance to drop once you are on the water. Here are a few of the big ones:

A higher difficulty of driving: Boats require a lot more focus and attention to drive than a car for several reasons. One big one is no matter how much we love to boat, we simply don’t have the time to get as familiar with it as we can a car. Another factor is that boats don’t have brakes. This means as the driver you need to be vigilant about other boaters and potential water hazards.

Glare: The sun coming off the water hits you in two different ways, which dehydrates you more quickly than when you’re on land. It can be hard to tell you’re dehydrated when you’re in the water, but it is still happening. This dehydration can enhance the effects of alcohol.

The continual rocking of the boat on the water can increase the rate at which your alcohol is absorbed by your body. That means that alcohol effects are more pronounced on the water, and they get to you faster as well.

Avoiding issues

If you’re pulled over for a BWI, a skilled criminal defense attorney can be a valuable resource. They can help you explore your options and keep your boating license.

You’ve waited all winter to get out on the water, make sure you’re there to enjoy it.

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