You know the phrase, “don’t drink and drive,” but did you know you can face similar penalties for boating under the influence. In Ohio, BWI (Boating While Intoxicated) is a misdemeanor of the first degree punishable by a $1,000 fine, jail time, and up to five years’ probation. Subsequent offenses are punishable by stricter penalties, including extended jail time and fines.

In the United States, officers cannot stop your boat for safety inspections without cause. However, a stop for any infraction could turn into a BWI investigation if the officer suspects you’ve been drinking.

  • Never admit to drinking while operating a boat.
    A BWI investigation starts with a question: Have you been drinking? Never confess to operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol; this cannot help your case, only hurt it. Even admitting to having one drink can lead to an arrest. You are not obligated to answer law enforcement’s questions, but you can ask to speak with an attorney.
  • Watch out for increased surveillance in Southern Ohio.
    National, anti-BWI campaigns like “Operation Dry Water” can lead to increased risk of arrest, especially in Southern Ohio’s numerous lakes and waterways. These campaigns encourage communities and local law enforcement to crack down on potential BWIs, heightening the risk of boating while intoxicated citations across the state.
  • You can get a BWI even if you’re not actively operating that boat.
    Depending on where you drop anchor, you can get a BWI even if you aren’t driving the boat. BWI laws aren’t just in place to prevent boating collisions, but drownings and accidents with fixed objects. Even if you drop anchor and spend the afternoon fishing, law enforcement can arrest you for boating under the influence if officers suspect you’re intoxicated.
  • Watch out for Labor Day BWI crackdowns.
    Just like OVI arrests, BWIs are more common on holiday weekends. With greater traffic on lakes and rivers, holidays like Labor Day weekend are especially risky for drinking on the water. If you’re arrested on suspicion of boating under the influence, know your rights and immediately contact The Law Offices of Steven R. Adams, LLC.


Facing a legal accusation is never easy, especially if your freedom is at stake. After an arrest, you can take steps to guard your rights and protect yourself from the serious penalties associated with a BWI conviction. To learn more, contact the Southern Ohio BWI defense lawyers at The Law Offices of Steven R. Adams, LLC today. The sooner we hear from you, the sooner we can start your defense.

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Steven R. Adams
Steven R. Adams was a criminal defense lawyer dedicated to DUI, OVI, and criminal defense in Cincinnati, Ohio.