In Missouri, it is not necessarily illegal to drink on a boat, but it is illegal to physically operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Boat or car, the BAC threshold of .08% remains the same for someone to be considered under the influence of alcohol. Many people think that a BWI is not taken as seriously as driving under the influence. However, if you are arrested for boating while intoxicated (BWI), you could face many of the same consequences as driving while intoxicated (DWI):
  • First-Offense BWI: class B misdemeanor, punishable up to 6 months in jail and/or $1000 fine, boater safety course;
  • Second-Offense BWI: class A misdemeanor, punishable up to 1 year in jail, up to a $2,000 fine; and
  • Third-Offense BWI: class E felony, punishable up to 4 years in prison, up to $10,000 fine.
On the other hand, there are many important differences to note about BWI’s. For example, Missouri’s boating while intoxicated laws do not apply to canoes, kayaks, or rowboats. It does, however, apply to sailboats or motorized vessels – including personal watercraft (Jet Skis). There are many particularized challenges which arise with BWI’s so it is important to have an attorney who is experienced in BWI’s on your side. For example:
  • Probable cause for stopping your boat may be harder for the officer to prove because there are not as many straightforward violations as there are on land (i.e. speeding, crossing over the line, rolling through a stop sign/light etc.);
  • Field sobriety tests are not fairly administered on floating docks or boats and are unlikely to be convincing; and
  • Proving who was operating a watercraft can often be more difficult than proving who was driving a car.

There are many more challenges which an experienced BWI attorney may use to try to win your case. It is important to take a BWI offense just as seriously as a DWI and to not just accept the consequences which come with a guilty plea, but instead hire an attorney who will fight for you.

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Updated on February 5th, 2020