Drinking and boating in Texas go together like peanut butter and jelly. What is a shining lake or a family fishing trip without a cold beer, after all? While having a beverage on the lake might be a cherished Texas pastime, drinking and boating in Texas can land you in jail for BWI before you can land your first bass. 

If you or a loved one has been arrested under suspicion of BWI in Houston, don’t fret. DWI and BWI lawyer Mark Thiessen of Thiessen Law Firm is here to answer a few common questions about BWI, and tell you what to do if you’ve been arrested for drinking and boating in Texas.

Can you drink and operate a boat in Texas?

You can drink and operate a boat at the same time in Texas. A person only commits the offense of boating while intoxicated, according to Texas Penal Code § 49.06, if the person is intoxicated while operating a watercraft. Watercrafts here are defined as “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,” so they can be jetskis, trawlers, yachts, or really anything with an engine. 

We like to remind people that it isn’t illegal to drink and then drive, it is only illegal to be intoxicated and drive. The same rules apply to boating while intoxicated in Texas, with the major caveat that alcohol consumption is legal while actually on the boat, and it is obviously illegal to drive with an open container in Texas

Can you get a DUI on a boat in Texas?

Is a BUI the same as a DUI in Texas? Although you cannot get a DWI or DUI on a boat in Texas, BWI is treated similarly, with a few key distinctions. 

  1. Primarily, it is very easy to get a BWI. Beyond the fact that you are legally allowed to operate a watercraft while drinking, which can encourage intoxication on the water, law enforcement officers, game wardens, and coast guards are allowed to stop watercraft under the pretense of performing water safety checks.
  2. There is also an increased possibility of false BWI arrests being made, due to factors like sun damage and fatigue making boaters appear more intoxicated than they are. Additionally, the marine field sobriety tests are engineered to make you fail.
  3. Marine field sobriety tests, also known as “float tests,” were created by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) all the way back in the ‘70s. They were created with the intention of making it easier for officers to arrest people under suspicion of BWI (in an effort to combat the prevalence of boating accidents), rather than accurately surmise whether the person completing the field sobriety tests is intoxicated.

Continue reading: Can you refuse a sobriety test?

All in all, being arrested for boating and drinking puts you in an unfavorable position from the start, which is all the more reason to hire the best lawyer you can get. Mark Thiessen is an ACS/CHAL Lawyer-Scientist, his elite knowledge of the science of intoxication helps him earn people their freedom, and fight bad science — like that employed in many BWI arrests.

Penalties for BWI in Texas

Penalties for BWI are steep, and for good reason. 

OffensePenaltyMaximum FineMaximum Jail Time
First offenseClass B misdemeanor$2,000180 days
First offense with serious injuryThird-degree felony$10,00010 years
First offense with deathSecond-degree felony$10,00020 years
Second offenseClass A misdemeanor$4,0001 year
Third offenseThird-degree felony$10,00020 years

You’ve been arrested for drinking and boating in Texas, now what?

Step one is always hiring the best BWI attorney in Houston that you can find. Mark Thiessen is Board Certified in Criminal Law by Texas Board of Legal Specialization and Board Certified in DWI Defense Law by NCDD, it doesn’t get much more qualified than that. Mark doesn’t let bad science and flimsy police methodology control the verdict — he uses his knowledge of the science to give his clients their best chance of getting a better result. 

There are defenses for BWI, mostly related to organizational mistakes and improper observation of arrest procedures. Some common defenses for BWI include:

  • Inaccurate blood and breath tests
  • Improper treatment of the blood sample
  • The rising BAC defense
  • Issues with control over the field sobriety tests
  • Insufficient evidence or probable cause

While these defenses are sound, and can be used circumstantially to combat BWI charges, it takes a very good attorney to make them stick. You need representation that knows the science as well as the law, and one who isn’t afraid to battle in trial. 

Arrested for drinking and boating in Texas? Call Thiessen Law Firm

If you or a loved one has been arrested for drinking and boating in Texas, you need to call an experienced BWI lawyer who you can trust. BWI cases, like DWI cases, move quickly — often the case is being built against you while you decide who to hire. Don’t let a BWI define the rest of your life.

If you want a tip, pick a lawyer that wins cases. You can read all about Mark Thiessen’s notable victories online, and decide for yourself who you want to hire. Call Thiessen Law Firm today at (713) 864-9000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

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Mark Thiessen

Mark Thiessen is an aggressive trial lawyer best known for his devotion to justice for his clients and high rank as a DWI Super Lawyer in Texas.