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When Can You Be Pulled Over For Drunken Boating on Iowa’s Waterways?

A sunset over the North Shore of Clear Lake, Iowa. The photo was taken from Buzzard's Bay on the South Shore.

The Iowa General Assembly has taken steps over the last few years to make the procedures for arresting a drunken boater closer to those for arresting a drunken driver. Iowa’s Supreme Court will be the next authority to make a decision on the matter.

Last month, the court heard oral arguments in the case of the State vs. Pettijohn.

“There are two issues in this case. One has to do with the stop of the boat and one has to do with the breath test back at the station,” explains University of Iowa law professor Todd Pettys.

A law enforcement officer stopped the boat after seeing a woman sitting on the back hanging her feet off the boat, and after stopping the boat realized the driver had been drinking. The case challenges two things.

“There is a statue that can hold you responsible for recklessly operating a boat, so one of the questions here is: if you have someone sitting on the back of the boat, and you are continuing to drive, are you committing a crime?” Pettys explains. “When the driver of the boat was taken to the station for a breath test, he refused, so it’s also a question here of whether he should be required to take the breath test.”

During this River to River conversation, Pettys talks with host Ben Kieffer about State versus Pettijohn and a handful of other cases before the Iowa Supreme Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court this fall. 

Then, during the second half of the program, Kieffer talks with KCCI evening news anchor Kevin Cooney, who is retiring at the end of next month after more than 30 years on the air. 

Lindsey Moon served as IPR's Senior Digital Producer - Music and the Executive Producer of IPR Studio One's All Access program. Moon started as a talk show producer with Iowa Public Radio in May of 2014. She came to IPR by way of Illinois Public Media, an NPR/PBS dual licensee in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, and Wisconsin Public Radio, where she worked as a producer and a general assignment reporter.
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River