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The JMK bLAWg

What You Need to Know Before Getting Behind the Wheel on Wisconsin Rivers and Lakes

What You Need to Know Before Getting Behind the Wheel on Wisconsin Rivers and Lakes

The summer season is upon us, and as a result, many Wisconsin residents take to the state’s numerous lakes and rivers in boats of all sizes with friends and family in tow. For those Wisconsin boaters looking for some relaxation on the water with an alcoholic beverage in hand, it might be beneficial to think twice. Just like any other motor vehicle, operating on waterways with a blood alcohol concentration above .08 or under the influence of any other drugs is prohibited by law (Wis. Stats. §§  30.681 (1)(a)-(bn)). Violation of these laws can carry serious legal consequences:

  • 1st offense: Forfeiture of $150.00 – $300.00
  • 2nd offense within 5 years: Forfeiture of $300.00 – $1,000.00 AND 5 days – 6                                                                 months jail
  • 3rd offense within 5 years: Forfeiture of $600.00 – $2,000.00 AND 30 days – 1                                                year jail
  • 4th offense within 5 years: Forfeiture of $600.00 – $2,000.00 AND 60 days – 1                                                              year jail
  • 5th offense within 5 years: Forfeiture of $600.00 – $2,000.00 AND 6 months –                                                 1 year jail

Similar to the operation of motor vehicles on Wisconsin roadways, operation of a boat on Wisconsin waterways constitutes implied consent to submit to a breathalyzer, or blood draw (after a prior conviction), in the event you are pulled over on the suspicion of boating under the influence. Refusal to submit to a breathalyzer or other blood alcohol test when requested by authorities constitutes an automatic violation of operating under the influence laws, subject to the applicable penalties.

Unlike Wisconsin OWI laws, boating under the influence does not result in the suspension or revocation of your operating privileges. However, penalties for boating under the influence may include: fines and/or jail time (detailed above), impounding of your boat, mandatory AODA assessments, and mandatory attendance at boater safety courses. To avoid the consequences associated with boating under the influence, be responsible and assign a designated driver before heading out on your next Wisconsin boating adventure. For more information on boater safety and regulations, visit the Wisconsin Handbook of Boating Laws and Responsibilities.