If boating on Texas’ many lakes and waterways just doesn’t seem right without a cooler filled with your favorite ice-cold brew, then you need to be aware of Texas’ boating while intoxicated (BWI) laws and penalties. Getting behind the wheel of your boat while sipping on a cold one doesn’t come with the same legal ramifications faced if you were to drink and then drive a car, but there are still some things you need to know to avoid being charged with BWI. 

What is BWI? 

Boating while intoxicated (BWI) falls under Texas Penal Code Sec. 49.06. The statute reads:

(a)  A person commits an offense if the person is intoxicated while operating a watercraft.

(b)  Except as provided by Section 49.09, an offense under this section is a Class B misdemeanor, with a minimum term of confinement of 72 hours.

A watercraft, as defined by the state of Texas, is:

a vessel, one or more water skis, an aquaplane, or another device used for transporting or carrying a person on water, other than a device propelled only by the current of water.

Charging Criteria for BWI

To charge an individual with BWI, the prosecution is tasked with proving that the accused:

  • was the operator of a watercraft.
  • was impaired by drugs or alcohol on a level that causes the person to lose “normal use of mental or physical faculties,” or
  • had a blood/breath/urine alcohol concentration or BAC of 0.08 percent or more.

Absent these criteria, the prosecution has a weak case against the accused. 

Getting Charged with Boating While Intoxicated in Texas

It is not uncommon for law enforcement to perform regular patrols near marinas that are popular among boaters, including those where boats can be trailered or launched. It is within the scope of law enforcement officers in the state of Texas to stop any watercraft just to conduct water safety checks. These checks ensure that boaters are complying with mandated safety requirements, including proper display of identification numbers, emergency horn and fire extinguisher on board, and the availability of adequate life vests. 

Subsequent to a law enforcement officer boarding a vessel, the officer may smell the odor of alcohol or visually observe alcohol being consumed by occupants of the craft. When this happens, the obvious focus of the investigation generally shifts to looking for BWI violators. 

But that’s not to say that boaters who have been drinking meet the legal definition of BWI, as stated by law. Sometimes a person can look inebriated when they are not. They may walk with a wobbly stance due to being on the water. Their face may be burned by the wind and sun. Although they appear to be intoxicated, they may just be exhibiting signs of a day on the water.

Charged with BWI?

If a day on the lake turned out to be a real headache because you were charged with BWI, you need to reach out for expert legal help right away. The defense team at the Law Office of David A. Breston is ready to help. Get in touch with us by dialing (713) 804-6492, or fill out this form to arrange a consultation to discuss your case in greater detail.

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