Beware Boating While Intoxicated Charges
The summer can be the height of recreational boating season in Texas, particularly during holidays such as the Fourth of July. Police are aware of this and will be on the lookout for people who have had too much to drink. Boating While Intoxicated is just as serious a charge in Texas as Driving While Intoxicated. People accused of BWI must take the same measures to protect themselves as if they were stopped for a DWI.
Defining Boating While Intoxicated
BWI occurs when a person operating any motorized aquatic vehicle is legally intoxicated, which is defined as having a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 or greater. Just as with a DWI, the punishment for those convicted varies, depending on the offender’s history and aggravating factors:
- A first-time BWI offense with no aggravating factors is a class B misdemeanor, with a sentence as long as 180 days in jail and a fine as large as $2,000;
- A second BWI offense is a class A misdemeanor, which may result in up to a year in jail and a fine no greater than $4,000;
- A third BWI offense or any offense that injures another party is a third-degree felony, which may include two to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines; and
- Any BWI offense that causes someone’s death is a second-degree felony, with a sentence of two to 20 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
If a person charged with his or her first BWI has a previous DWI conviction, prosecutors can pursue charges as if it was a second BWI offense. A court can also suspend an offender’s driver’s license for a BWI conviction.
In DWI cases, police need to have reasonable suspicion that a driver is committing a violation before pulling them over. On the water, police are allowed to stop boat operators at any time in order to conduct safety checks. During the check, an officer may observe symptoms of the boat operator being intoxicated and may request that the suspect submit to tests to prove sobriety.
People suspected of BWI are advised to refuse a field sobriety test. Officers must conduct the tests on dry, flat land and give the suspect time to recover from being on the water. A sober suspect is still at risk of failing the test due to fatigue from boating.
BWI suspects can also refuse to submit to a blood alcohol test. However, officers may present a warrant to obtain the blood alcohol sample. The suspect must then decide whether to submit to the test or possibly face an additional charge for not complying with the warrant.
If you have been charged with BWI, you need an experienced San Antonio BWI defense attorney to represent you. Schedule a free consultation with the Law Offices of Sam H. Lock by calling 888-726-5625.