The Fourth of July holiday is fast approaching. Many people head up to their cabins for the holiday, others stay in the Twin Cities area and take advantage of the many lakes that are available to the public. As many people will tell you, watching fireworks from a boat, in the middle of the lake, is the best way to experience the celebration of our nations independence. However, beware of the pesky conservation officers, or other law enforcement agencies, that patrol the lakes in an effort to make sure people are being safe, responsible and following the law. They are out there in full force, and will not hesitate to stop your boat for a suspected equipment violation or other perceived unlawful conduct. If the driver of the boat has been drinking, it is a reasonable bet that the officer will investigate whether that person is impaired under Minnesota law. Just as it is unlawful to operate an automobile while under the influence, it is equally unlawful to operate a boat in the same condition. This is often referred to as boating while intoxicated, or boating while impaired.
If an officer suspects the driver of a boat is impaired or intoxicated, they will have that person perform certain field sobriety tests. If the suspicion turns into probable cause, the driver of the boat will be arrested and taken to the local police department for further testing. If the driver refuses to submit to testing, his or her license to operate a boat will be revoked for one year. If the driver submits to testing, and the result is .16 or greater, his or her boating privileges will also be revoked for one year. If the test is .08-.15, those same privileges will be revoked or 90 days. In addition, even though the person was not operating a “regular” motor vehicle, their license to operate their “regular” vehicle will be revoked as well. Those same people will also lose their license to operate a snowmobile and ATV, if they possess such a license.
In addition to the license revocation periods, those suspected of boating while intoxicated or impaired will be charged with criminal offenses. For a first time offender with a test between .08-.15, they will be charged with a misdemeanor. For first time offenders who test .16 or greater, or refuse testing, they will be charged with a gross misdemeanor. For second and third time offenders, they will be charged with a gross misdemeanor and face mandatory jail time if convicted. For those with three priors within the past 1o years, the fourth will be charged as a felony.
Enjoy the holiday, and the many beautiful lakes our state has to offer. However, be smart about your alcohol consumption. If you are arrested for boating while intoxicated or impaired, contact Carson for a free case analysis.