The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office has made 55 arrests for Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) so far this year, including multiple arrests on Lake Minnetonka.
“Intoxicated boat operators are a serious hazard, and they jeopardize the safety of everyone on the water,” said Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek. “Take the necessary precautions to prevent impaired boating. Law enforcement needs your help to eliminate this danger from our waterways.”
Boat operators are responsible for the safety of the people on board their boat, as well as operating the boat in a manner that maintains a safe environment for other people using the water.
The consequences for BWI include:
- Boaters who are arrested for BWI are taken to jail and their boats may be impounded.
- A BWI offense takes place on the water—however, a BWI conviction may also affect your driving record.
- If you are a repeat DWI or BWI offender, your boat may be seized.
- For repeat DWI/ BWI offenders, you are at risk losing driving privileges—on the water and on land.
- An intoxicated boat operator will face greater penalties if children were on board the boat.
- If you are convicted of BWI, it is costly—due to increased insurance rates, legal fees, and fines that you may face.
Several factors make it imperative that boat operators remain sober and vigilant in order to be safe on the water, according to the sheriff's office.
Unlike vehicles on a roadway, there are no designated lanes for boats on a waterway. A boat operator must remain attentive at all times for safe navigation. Passengers on a boat are not wearing seatbelts; passengers are at risk of injury or being thrown overboard with an impaired boat operator at the helm.
When you spend the day exposed to the elements—such as wind, sun, and the motion of the waves—it causes fatigue.
Preventing intoxicated boating:
- Designate a sober boat operator prior to boating.
- Bring non-alcoholic beverages on board the boat.
- If you dock, remember to designate a sober operator prior to re-boarding the boat.
- As a passenger, make it clear that your safety is important to you and you do not wish to participate in boating with an impaired operator.
- If you see impaired boating, call 911.
Information provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office.