Boating and Alcohol: The Laws

Boating and alcohol laws vary from state to state. In Iowa is illegal  to operate any boat, or manipulate any waterskis, surfboard or similar device while under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, a narcotic, hypnotic or other drug, or any combination thereof.

In Iowa, a person is considered to be under the influence if:

  • They are impaired by alcohol, drugs or a combination of such substances.
  • They have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level of 0.08 or more.
  • They have any amount of a controlled substance is present in their body, as measured in their blood or urine.

Boating and Alcohol

In Iowa, a person convicted of operating a boat while under the influence will be subject to the following penalties:

Upon a first offence: A fine of up to $1,000, a minimum of 48 hours imprisonment and a loss of operating privileges for 1 year.

Upon a second offence:  A fine of up to $5,000, a minimum of 7 days in jail and a loss of operating privileges for 2 years.

Upon a third offence: A fine of up to $7,500, jail time for up to 1 year and a loss of operating privileges for 6 years.

Implied Consent

Any person operating a boat is deemed to have given consent to a breath and/or blood test to determine if they are impaired by drugs and/or alcohol. Refusal to submit to testing can result in a fine of up to $500 and the loss of operating privileges for up to 1 year.

Iowa’s Law Enforcement Authority

Boating laws in Iowa are enforced by:

  • Iowa Department of Natural Resources Conservation officers.
  • The Coast Guard (on federal waters).

Law enforcement officers have the authority to stop and board boats that are being launched, operated, or moored in Iowa waters, to conduct an inspection and ensure that operators are in compliance with equipment and documentation requirements.

It is illegal to attempt to elude law enforcement, or to fail to stop your boat when signaled to do so by law enforcement. Enforcement officers will give a visual or audible signal by displaying their flashing blue or red lights, or by using their horn or siren.