What Constitutes Boating While Intoxicated in Texas?
There are few things more enjoyable than a lovely day out on the water. With all the magnificent lakes and waterways in Texas, boating is an excellent activity you can enjoy with friends, family, or even yourself. So, what happens when you want to crack a cold one out on the water? Unlike driving a car, it is not illegal to have an open container of alcohol while you are driving a boat or watercraft if the operator is at least 21 years of age and does not become legally intoxicated.
If you have been charged with boating while intoxicated, you may be shocked, as it is not uncommon for legal-aged boaters to enjoy alcohol while on the water. However, if you have been charged with such a crime, it may be wise to hire experienced legal counsel to help you avoid criminal penalties, including fines and prison.
Being Charged with Boating While Intoxicated in Texas
Under Texas state law, a person commits the offense of boating while intoxicated if they operate a watercraft with a BAC at or above .08%. To be convicted of boating while intoxicated, you must be found guilty of at least one of these criteria:
- The accused operated a watercraft under the influence of drugs or alcohol and thereby did not have normal use of their mental or physical faculties.
- The accused operated a watercraft with a breath, blood, or urine alcohol concentration of .08% or above.
How Do You Get Charged with Boating While Intoxicated?
It is important to remember that operating a boat or watercraft differs from driving a car. This is especially true when it comes to fatigue. While it is possible to become fatigued while driving a car, it is even easier to become fatigued while operating a boat. The sun, wind, and motion can fatigue you to the point where a nearby law enforcement vessel may suspect you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Additionally, telltale signs of a driver being intoxicated, such as facial redness, bloodshot eyes, and wobbly eyes, may very well be the work of being out on the water in the sun all day.
That said, different from DWIs, police out on the water may stop your boat for a routine safety check without any indication of alcohol or drug consumption taking place on the boat. These on-water safety checks look to ensure the vessel or watercraft has a satisfactory number of life-perseveres, fire extinguishers, emergency horns, and things of that nature. Unfortunately, while the safety check is underway, officers may smell alcohol and see evidence of alcohol consumption. While this is not inherently illegal, the situation can quickly change from a routine water safety check to a possible boating while intoxicated investigation.
Penalties for Boating While Intoxicated
Penalties for boating while intoxicated can be quite severe. For a first-offense class B misdemeanor, the accused may face a fine of up to $2,000, 180 days in jail, and even a driver's license suspension of 6 months to a year. However, if your first BWI offense involves a serious injury, the penalties become markedly stiffer, with fines up to $10,000 and up to a decade in prison. If the BWI results in a death, this is a second-degree felony, with penalties of up to $10,000 and up to two decades in prison. Simply put, the penalties become stiffer the more offenses that are committed, especially if the offenses result in severe injury or death.
Contact a Texas BWI Lawyer
Hiring an experienced attorney is crucial to ensure your rights are protected if you have been charged with boating while intoxicated. Our skilled San Antonio BWI attorneys at Law Offices of Sam H. Lock will strive to prove your innocence in court. Call 210-226-0965 today for a free and private consultation.