If you are like many Minnesotans, you’ll be boating on the lakes this summer. And for a lot of boaters, these excursions include alcohol, so it is crucial to know what the laws say about drinking and boating.
Who can drink on a boat?
In Minnesota, the laws that make it illegal to consume or have an open container of alcohol in a car do not apply to boats. This means that people can lawfully drink in a boat – even if they are driving.
However, there are exceptions and limits to this. More specifically:
- You cannot legally drink on a boat if you are under 21.
- You cannot legally drink and operate a boat with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent.
- You cannot legally drink and operate a boat recklessly.
So, in general, as long as you are safe and of legal drinking age, Minnesota laws allow you to consume alcohol on a boat.
When can law enforcement approach me?
Law enforcement agencies across the state are aggressive in their efforts to cite boaters for boating while impaired (BWI) or boating under the influence (BUI). They can and do stop boats for a wide range of boating violations, including:
- Hanging off the boat
- Life preserver issues
- Reckless driving
- Missing mirrors or lights
- Driving too close to a swimming area
State or federal authorities can stop you for these or other boating violations, which could lead to a BWI if they suspect you are impaired.
Consequences of BWI in Minnesota
If you are accused of boating under the influence or while intoxicated, you could face penalties including:
- Loss of your boating and driving privileges
- Possible jail time
Refusing to take tests by an enforcement officer can also trigger or exacerbate these penalties.
If there are aggravating factors, such as repeat offenses, a very high BAC and having children under 16 onboard, the possible consequences are harsher. Under these circumstances, you could face mandatory jail time, felony charges and even forfeiture of your boat.
This information can help you understand your rights and the laws regarding BUIs in Minnesota so that you can make informed decisions and have fun on the water this summer.