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Know the Facts about Boating & Drinking



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.08 Boating While Intoxicated PSA, Iowa DNR (PSA) (0:30)
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Boating and Alcohol Don't Mix, Iowa DNR (0:31)

Operating a Motorboat or Sailboat While Intoxicated
Effective July 1, 2011, the blood alcohol level for boating while intoxicated (BWI) is reduced from .10 percent to .08 percent - the same as a motor vehicle.  

Boaters are reminded that alcohol reduces reaction time and ability to make quick, sound judgments in an emergency situation. Also, wind, sun, glare off the water, and water movement multiplies the effects of alcohol.

Operating a motorboat or sailboat while under the influence of alcohol (.08 alcohol level or higher), a controlled substance, or other illegal chemical is unlawful. For the purpose of BWI, "operating a motorboat" means the motorboat is powered by a motor that is running. For the purposes of BWI, "operating a sailboat" means the sailboat is either powered by a motor that is running or has sails hoisted and is underway. Operators who are impaired may be required to take tests by an enforcement officer to determine their sobriety. Anyone refusing to test will be charged a penalty.

All navigable waters in the state of Iowa will be subject to the new law, except farm ponds and privately owned lakes.



First Offense: A Serious Misdemeanor

A serious misdemeanor can result in the following punishments:

  • Imprisonment in county jail for at least 48 hours.
  • Assessment of a fine up to $1,000.
  • Loss of boat operating privileges for one year.
  • Assignment to a substance abuse evaluation and treatment, and a course for drinking drivers.


Second Offense: An Aggravated Misdemeanor

An aggravated misdemeanor can result in the following punishments:

  • Imprisonment in county jail or community-based correctional facility for at least seven days.
  • Assessment of a $1,500 to $5,000 fine.
  • Loss of boat operating privileges for two years.
  • Assignment to a substance abuse evaluation and treatment, and a course for drinking drivers.


Third Offense: A Class "D" Felony

A class "D" felony can result in the following punishments:

  • Imprisonment in the county jail for 30 days to one year.
  • Assessment of a $2,500 to $7,500 fine.
  • Loss of boat operating privileges for six years.
  • Assignment to a substance abuse evaluation and treatment, and a course for drinking drivers.


Consequences of Refusing to Test

Refusing to submit to a breath or chemical test can result in a $500 fine and a one year suspension of boat operating privileges. If the offender, during the second offense, refuses to submit to a test, a $1,000 fine will be assigned plus suspension of boat operating privileges. Third-time offenders will receive a $2,000 fine and suspension of boat operating privileges. 

Questions & Answers
Can I drink alcohol on the boat?
Yes, consuming alcohol is permissible on the boat, but remember the operator is not to be under the influence.

Will a boating while intoxicated (BWI) offense affect my driver's license?
No, a boating while intoxicated (BWI) offense will not be transferred to your automobile driving records.

How much alcohol can I consume to be considered legally drunk?
That depends on the individual. Use extra precaution while drinking on the boat because sun, wind and movement can quickly amplify the effects of alcohol and disorient the operator or passengers.

For more information contact:
Iowa Department of Natural Resources
502 E. 9th Street
Wallace State Office Building
Des Moines, IA 50319
515-725-8200 or webmaster@dnr.iowa.gov


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