Boating While Intoxicated

Boating While Intoxicated closely resembles Iowa’s Operating While Intoxicated laws.  However, the “legal limit” for Boating While Intoxicated is .10 Effective July 1st, the “legal limit” will be reduced to .08.  It is also important to note that the Department of Transportation has no authority to suspend or revoke an individual’s motor vehicle driving privileges for a Boating While Intoxicated conviction or offense. 

Proving Boating While Intoxicated

To prove a Boating While Intoxicated offense in the State of Iowa, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • Defendant Operated A Motorboat Or Sailboat;
  • On The Navigable Waters Of The State Of Iowa;
  • At the time the Defendant operated the motorboat or sailboat, he/she was under the influence of alcohol, drug or a combination thereof; OR
  • Had an alcohol concentration in excess of .10.

“Operation” is defined the same as in a normal Operating While Intoxicated case.

“Navigable waters” means: “all lakes, rivers, and streams, which can support a vessel capable of carrying one or more persons during a total of six months period in one out of every ten years.”

A “motorboat” means: “any vessel propelled by an inboard, inboard-outdrive, or outboard engine, whether or not such engine is the principal source of propulsion.”

A “sailboat” means: “any watercraft operated with a sail.”

Thus, one cannot be convicted of Boating While Intoxicated if operating a canoe, kayak, or other such motor-less and sail-less watercraft.

Punishment

Criminal Penalties

The criminal penalties are the same as in normal Operating While Intoxicated cases with the exception that the mandatory minimum fines are different.  Deferred Judgment eligibility is identical to OWI’s.

First Offense: Serious Misdemeanor

  • Jail up to one year but not less than 48 hours in jail;
  • Mandatory minimum fine of $1,000, however, at the discretion of the court, up $500 of the fine may be waived or the court can order the person to perform unpaid community service instead of paying the fine.
  • Court ordered prohibition of operating a motorboat or sailboat for one year.
  • Substance abuse evaluation and treatment if recommended.

Second Offense: Aggravated Misdemeanor

  • Up to 2 years in prison but not less than 7 days in jail.
  • Mandatory minimum fine of $1,500 but not more than $5,000.
  • Court ordered prohibition of operation of a motorboat or sailboat for two years.
  • Substance abuse evaluation and treatment if recommended.

Third Offense: Class D Felony

  • Up to 5 years in prison but not less than 30 days in jail.
  • Mandatory minimum fine of $2,500 but not more than $7,500.
  • Court ordered prohibition of operation of a motorboat or sailboat for six years.
  • Substance abuse evaluation and treatment if recommended.

Note: Prior Offenses (Convictions Or Deferred Judgments) For Boating While Intoxicated Within The Past 12 Years Will Be Used For Enhancement Purposes. However, Prior Operating While Intoxicated While In A Motor Vehicle Convictions Do Not Count As Prior Convictions Under This Section For Enhancement Purposes.

Civil Penalties

THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION MAY NOT SUSPEND A PERSON’S MOTOR VEHICLE DRIVING PRIVILEGES FOR A VIOLATION OF BOATING WHILE INTOXICATED LAWS.

If convicted, the sentencing court imposes a restriction on the individual’s ability to operate a motorboat or sailboat in the State of Iowa for the applicable period of time.

Refusals

If an individual arrested or suspected of Boating While Intoxicated refuses to submit to a chemical no test may be compelled. However, the court (not the Department of Transportation) is required to order that the person not operate a motorboat or sailboat for one year.  In addition, mandatory “civil penalties” are also required.

  • First Offense: $500
  • Second Offense: $1,000
  • Third Offense, $2,000

These penalties are in addition to those provided for if the person is convicted of the criminal offense.

WARNING:  There is a substantial likelihood that these provisions may violate the United States Constitution and Iowa State Constitutional prohibitions against Double Jeopardy!  Punishing an individual’s exercise of a constitutional right to refuse testing when no licensing is required to drive a boat or operate a sailboat may also violate the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1 Section 8 of the Iowa Constitution.

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