Boating while intoxicated (BWI) is almost identical to driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Texas. The major difference between BWI and DWI is the stop. Texas law does not require a game warden or aquatic police officer to have any articulate or specific reasonable suspicion or probable cause to stop a boat while operated on the waters of Texas; however, an officer must have specific and articulate reasonable suspicion and probable cause to stop a car, truck, or other motor vehicle.
In addition to heavy fines, you may face jail time for boating while intoxicated. While a first or second BWI may result in up to 180 days to 1 year in prison, respectively, a third BWI conviction carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. You need to move quickly and retain an attorney who can help you avoid these significant penalties.
Do not settle for anything less than the best when it comes to your legal counsel. Serving Houston and all of Texas, our BWI lawyers are prepared to protect your rights. Call (713) 864-9000 today!
What Is Boating While Intoxicated?
Texas Penal Code § 49.06 governs BWI. If one operates a watercraft while intoxicated, one may be arrested for BWI. It is important to note that a watercraft is any craft that a person can use over water, such as boats, jet skis, and even water skis. This designation excludes vessels like rowboats because they are propelled entirely by manpower.
A game warden or sheriff/officer may board your vessel for safety and security reasons, for example to check that you have enough life jackets, registration, flags, and a fire extinguisher. But once they get on the boat, they may detect the “odor of an alcoholic beverage” on your breath or person. Most officers will also note your eyes, speech, balance, and any empty containers, all the while building probable cause to detain you for further investigation. Even if you pass their standard field sobriety tests on land, you may still be asked to provide a breath or blood specimen.
Penalties for BWI in Houston, TX
In Texas, it is illegal to operate a boat with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher — the same as a DWI. Texas law establishes stiff penalties for BWI, including:
- First conviction carries a fine of up to $2,000 and/or jail time of up to 180 days
- Second conviction carries a fine of up to $4,000 and/or jail time of up to one year
- Third conviction carries a fine of up to $10,000 and/or jail time of 2-10 years
If you are found to be boating while intoxicated in Texas in a vessel that has an engine over 50 horsepower, the state will try to automatically suspend your license.
If you have been charged with boating while intoxicated, contact a Houston BWI attorney at (713) 864-9000 immediately. We’re here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help you.