What happens if I am arrested for BWI on Lake Minnetonka
Boating While Impaired is just as serious as DWI/DUI
It is not uncommon for boaters on Lake Minnetonka and the rest of our Minnesota lakes to have a couple cocktails, cold beers, or white claws while enjoying a day on the lake. The good news is that drinking while boating is legal, and motorboats are specifically excluded from the definition of "motor vehicle" in the Minnesota statute prohibiting open bottles of alcohol in motor vehicles. It is illegal to drink and drive a car, but it is legal to drink and boat. Unfortunately for many Lake Minnetonka boaters, it is still illegal to operate a boat while impaired by alcohol or with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or more.
As these unfortunate boaters discover, the consequences of a BWI are just as severe as the consequences of a DWI/DUI. A boater who is arrested for BWI on Lake Minnetonka can be taken to the Hennepin County jail, can be held in jail for several days until a bail hearing, can lose his or her driver's license and license plates, can be required to participate in the ignition interlock program, and can even be subject to the same mandatory minimum jail time some drunk drivers are required to serve. In some circumstances, the State can even seize the boat and forfeit it, meaning the State can sell the boat and keep the money from the sale. Clearly, the consequences of a BWI can be every bit as devastating as the consequences of a DWI/DUI.
To make things worse for boaters, law enforcement does not need "reasonable suspicion of criminal activity" to stop a boat, even though they need reasonable suspicion to stop any other vehicle. The deputies who patrol Lake Minnetonka and our other lakes have lawful authority to stop any boat on the lake, at any time, to conduct a safety check and to make sure there are enough life jackets for every person on the boat. Deputies will also rely on other minor boating violations to justify a stop, including gunwale riding, creation of a wake in a no-wake zone, or failure to use the appropriate lights at night. The smallest mistake while boating, or even no mistake at all, can lead to an arrest for BWI if law enforcement reasonably believes that the person operating the boat is under the influence.
However, there are additional defenses available in BWI cases that cannot be used in a DWI/DUI case. Our experienced lawyers have used these defenses to help many Lake Minnetonka boaters fight their BWI cases, often with great success. For example, in one case, Olson Defense proved that the motorboat was not "in operation" at the time our client sat in the captain's seat, leading to dismissal of the impaired boating charges and a complete restoration of our client's driving and boating privileges. In other cases, we have persuaded prosecutors to dismiss impaired driving charges, to amend charges to careless boating, or to reduce gross misdemeanors to misdemeanors. If you, a family member, or a friend has been arrested for or charged with BWI, please call Olson Defense at 952-835-1088 to discuss how our lawyers can fight your case.