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What Missourians need to know about BWI laws

On Behalf of | Aug 7, 2023 | DUI/DWI

Nothing can ruin a day on the water like a serious collision. Too often, these are caused by boat operators being under the influence. Just recently, a boater was arrested for boating while intoxicated (BWI) after his boat ran aground, crashed into a home at Lake of the Ozarks and flipped over. Eight people, including him, were injured and the home was seriously damaged.

Unfortunately, even people who would never consider getting behind the wheel of a car after a few drinks don’t think anything of operating their boat in the same condition. However, doing so can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence. In fact, alcohol is one of the primary causes of boating accidents and deaths.

Watercraft aren’t just boats

Missouri law takes BWI seriously, and BWI charges can be compounded if someone is injured or killed. It’s illegal to operate a watercraft (including water skis and even surfboards) with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher. That’s the same as for driving while intoxicated (DWI).

Although the amount of drugs (marijuana or others) can’t yet be definitively measured by a Breathalyzer-type test, someone can still be arrested if they’re showing signs of impairment. More importantly, ingesting drugs (even some legal drugs) and/or alcohol can cause slowed reaction times, impaired judgment, vision and coordination problems and put anyone on or near the water at risk.

What can increase the consequences of a BWI?

The potential criminal consequences increase with the number of BWI convictions. Of course, when a BWI involves injury or death, the penalties can be extremely serious. It’s also illegal to furnish alcohol to anyone under 21 while on a boat.

While it’s not illegal for adults to drink on a boat as long as they aren’t operating it, having alcohol on board can be all too tempting to share “just one or two” with your passengers. Even if you don’t, the effects of a couple of drinks with lunch at a dockside restaurant can stay with you when you get back on the water.

If you’re facing a BWI charge, it’s crucial to take it seriously – even if it’s your first one. Having experienced legal guidance can help you protect your rights and present your case.