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Indiana Boating While Intoxicated Laws: Reminder For Safe Summer Fun

Summer is now here in full swing, and its a great time of year to go out on one of the many Indiana lakes and other waterways and enjoy yourself with family and friends. Often, as part of these fun times we have in our boats and other personal water crafts, there is also food and drink involved, including drinks of the alcoholic kind.

While legal and responsible drinking is allowed, BWI — boating while intoxicated — is not. Therefore, the attorneys of Starr Austen & Miller would like to remind you to have a safe and enjoyable experience for yourself, your friends and family who you’re boating with, and for the public at large. Just as when driving a car, operating a boat while intoxicated with either alcohol and/or drugs can be dangerous for yourself and everyone around you.

Both the conservation officers of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Coast Guard (for concurrent waters) have jurisdiction over anyone operating a boat or personal water craft (PWC), such as a jet ski, in Indiana waters. These officers will not hesitate to ticket you if you are violating any Indiana boating requirements, which are put in place, much like traffic laws, to keep both you and the public safe while enjoying the water.

One of the most often violated statutes is boating while intoxicated, which is prohibited under Indiana Code 14-15-8, entitled Operating a Motorboat While Intoxicated []. Similarly, operating a PWC while intoxicated is also illegal. Under Indiana state law the offense of BWI is a class C misdemeanor, but can become much more severe for a second offense or if serious bodily injury results (class D felony), and further increases to a Class C felony if the offense results in the death of another person. If you are convicted of BWI, in addition to criminal penalties that may be imposed for a misdemeanor, the court is required to order the person not to operate a motorboat for at least one year, and if it was a felony for at least two years

Under the law there is prima facie evidence of intoxication if your blood alcohol level is 0.08, but you may be arrested and potentially convicted of BWI if your blood alcohol level is as low as 0.05 and you are found to be too impaired to have safely operated a boat. To be on the safe side, it is highly advised to treat your boating outings as you should any other fun night out, by having a designated boat operator who does not imbibe any alcohol at all.

Further, the law states that when operating a boat or PWC on Indiana waters you have implied your consent to be tested for alcohol or drugs if requested by a law enforcement official, which can include conservation officers employed by the Indiana Natural Resources Commission. If a person refuses testing they may be arrested and evidence of the refusal can be admitted into evidence.

Summer is the time for having fun out in the sun and water with your family and friends, but let’s all do our part to do so safely while observing all relevant laws. Don’t boat and drive so everyone can have a great and safe time this summer throughout Indiana’s waterways.