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Boating While Intoxicated

Most people are aware that driving while intoxicated is a serious crime with harsh penalties. However, you might not be aware that boating while inebriated (BWI) also can lead to criminal charges. Since boating is usually a much more relaxing way to travel than driving, many boaters may not consider that they can be arrested for drinking and operating their boat.

Boating while intoxicated can result in the same unforgiving penalties as driving while intoxicated (DWI). However, what separates DWI and BWI charges is the fact officers don’t need probable cause when they are conducting a boat stop. The reason for this is that law enforcement is entitled to stop any watercraft if they believe their equipment isn’t updated or to check the boat has all the necessary requirements needed to fulfill the Texas statute law.

These facts can make it much more difficult to defend a person charged with BWI. The defense will not be able to rely on an unlawful stop or search procedures when in trial. That is why it’s highly recommended you hire an attorney who has extensive BWI experience when representing your criminal charges.

BWI Defense Attorney in Montgomery County, Texas

Many boat operators simply enjoy their time on the water and don’t even consider the dangers of drinking while boating. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean they won’t face criminal charges if law enforcement conducts a boat stop. If you or someone you know has been charged with BWI, then it’s imperative you seek a criminal defense attorney to fight for your case.

A great option is to contact the passionate and skilled attorneys at Evans & Powell, PLLC. We understand how BWI cases work and can use multiple legal strategies to fight for your rights and freedom. You can call us now at (713) 622 - 2000 to set up your first consultation free. Evans & Powell, PLLC accepts clients throughout the greater Montgomery County area including Conroe, Willis, Magnolia, Splendora and New Caney.

Overview of BWI Defense in Texas

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What’s the Difference Between a BWI and DWI Stop Under Texas Law?

Regarding the penalties, there are not many differences between driving while intoxicated and boating while intoxicated. What separates the two is how boating stops are conducted versus a routine traffic or DWI stop. Officers must have probable cause to lawfully perform any kind of traffic stop. In other words, a police officer cannot pull you over without a reason. This means if your defense can prove the stop was unlawful it’s likely the judge will dismiss the case.

Boating stops are handled in a much different manner under Texas law. Law enforcement are legally permitted to stop any watercraft for the sole purpose of conducting a water safety check, which is a list of requirements for boating safety such as having proper lights or making sure all boat passengers are wearing a life vest. So, officers don’t need to have probable cause to pull you over on a boat. It also means your defense team can’t rely on illegal police stop and search procedures when they’re representing you in court.

What’s worse is that officers could confuse signs of dehydration with intoxication. Many boaters have been on the water all day and could retain facial redness, wobbly legs and red eyes because of serious dehydration. Unfortunately, these can also be easily mistaken for signs of intoxication. Mix these physical signs with extreme nerves from the stop and an officer can become suspicious you’re under the influence easily.

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Major Difference Between a BWI and DWI

Boating while intoxicated is a similar charge as DWI with the same penalties, but there are a few distinct differences. It’s important you secure legal representation familiar with BWI cases so you can take advantage of these differences for your defense. These differences include:

  • It’s not unlawful to have an open container and drink on a boat if you’re not operating the watercraft under the influence or drinking and operating it;
  • Law enforcement are entitled to stop your boat at any time for a routine safety check;
  • Officers may ask you to perform seated float sobriety tests instead of standard ones

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Penalties for Boating Under the Influence in Texas

A BWI may have several differences with DWI, but the overall consequences are the same. Certain aggravating factors such as having a child passenger on board or having a high blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or higher will enhance the penalties. If your BWI results in serious bodily injury or death to another person, then you should expect higher fines and an even longer jail or prison sentence.

The following are the penalties for BWI in Texas.

ClassFineIncarceration License Suspension
First OffenseClass B Misdemeanor $2,00072 hours – 180 days6 months – 1 year
Intoxication AssaultThird Degree Felony $10,0002 – 10 years6 months – 1 year
Intoxication ManslaughterSecond Degree Felony $10,0002 – 20 years6 months – 1 year
Second Offense Class A Misdemeanor$4,00030 days to 1 year6 months – 1 year
Third OffenseThird Degree Felony$10,0002 – 20 years6 months – 1 year

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Additional Resources

Safety Requirements for Vessels – Visit the official website for the Texas Parks and Wildlife to learn more about the safety requirements for boats and their operators. Access the site to learn more about what motorboats, personal watercrafts, sailboats, canoes/kayaks, and other types of water vessels need when to operate lawfully.

Texas DWI Laws – Visit the official website for the Texas Penal Code to learn more about driving or boating under the influence and penalties. Access the site to learn more about boating while intoxicated, flying while intoxicated (FWI), the penalties and other related crimes.

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Defense Attorney for Boating While Intoxicated in Conroe, TX

If you or someone you know has been arrested for boating while intoxicated, it’s important you have quality legal counsel secured. We suggest you hire one of our compassionate and experienced criminal defense lawyers at Evans & Powell, PLLC.

Call (713) 622 - 2000 to set up your first consultation completely free. Evans & Powell, PLLC represents people throughout the greater Montgomery County area including Conroe, New Caney, Magnolia, Splendora and Willis.

Evans & Powell, PLLC