Operating a Motorboat While Intoxicated

More sun and higher temperatures suggest summer is on its way. For many in Wisconsin, summer means it is finally boating season. Whether you're fishing, partying with friends, or having an afternoon out on the lake with family, it's important to remember the laws around drinking and operating boats.

Photo By: Michaela Pereckas


Does Wisconsin law prohibit operating a motorboat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol?

Yes. In Wisconsin, it is illegal to operate a motorboat while under the influence of an intoxicant to a degree rendering you incapable of safe operation. Specifically, Wis. Stat. 30.681, states that no person may engage in the operation of a motorboat while they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher (note that this number is different for operation of a commercial motorboat). Additionally, according to Wis. Stat. 30.681(1m), no person may engage in the operation of a motorboat while they have a detectable amount of a restricted controlled substance in their blood. Finally, under Wis. Stat. 30.681(2)(bn), a person who has not attained the legal drinking age may not engage in the operation of a motorboat while they have a BAC of more than 0.0 and less than 0.08.


What are the penalties for operating a motorboat under the influence?

The penalties for operating a motorboat under the influence increase based on whether you have been previously convicted of this crime. The penalties in Wisconsin are as follows:


· First offense: Payment of a fine between $150 and $300.


· Second offense: Payment of a fine between $300 and $1,000, and imprisonment for no less than 5 days, and no more than 6 months.


· Third offense: Payment of a fine between $600 and $2,000, and imprisonment for no less than 30 days, and no more than one year.


· Fourth offense: Fine between $600 and $2,000, and imprisonment for no less than 60 days and no more than one year.


· Fifth offense: Fine between $600 and $2,000, and imprisonment for no less than 6 months, and no more than one year.


The penalty for a minor operating a motorboat with a BAC over 0.0 and under 0.08 is a $50.00 fine. Additionally, an individual convicted of boating under the influence may be required to complete a boating safety course and obtain a certificate of completion.


Can I be charged with an OWI if my boat only has a trolling motor?

Yes. In Wisconsin, the size of the motor does not make a difference; if the boat has a motor, you can be charged with boating under the influence. Boaters operating without motors, for example by using only oars, would not be charged with boating under the influence, but could still be subject to a charge for endangering others.


What if I don’t consent to a chemical test?

According to Wis. Stat. 30.683, any person who engages in the operation of a motorboat on the waters of Wisconsin is deemed to have given consent to provide one or more samples of their breath, blood, or urine for the purpose of authorized analysis.


If you have been charged with boating under the influence, contact Levine Eisberner LLC at 608-621-2888 for a consultation today.




Sources:

- https://dnr.wi.gov/files/pdf/pubs/le/le0301.pdf

- https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/30/v/681

- Wis. Stat. Ann. § 30.681 (West)