Boating While Intoxicated
Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) is similar to driving while intoxicated in several regards. Both offenses require proof of intoxication, using either field sobriety tests or breathalyzer results. You may be convicted of BWI while on a lake or river if:
- You do not have normal use of your mental or physical faculties due to alcohol or drugs.
- You have a BAC (blood alcohol level) of .08 or higher.
The result can be the same for a DWI and a BWI -- serious criminal charges that could jeopardize your freedom, your family and your future. You need the Austin, TX DWI defense attorneys at Minton, Burton, Bassett, & Collins, P.C. Call us today at (512) 476-4873 or contact us via email. We can help you with your BWI case in Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop, Caldwell, Burnet and Comal counties.
One key difference between BWI and DWI charges is that an officer is not required to have probable cause to stop your boat and test you for suspected intoxication. If you are driving an automobile, an officer must have probable cause (such as erratic driving behavior, missing lights, crossing the center line, etc.) before pulling you over. If you are a boater, you can be stopped at the officer's discretion. Since open containers of alcohol are not violations of Texas law on a boat, unlike in an automobile, your fellow passengers may be legally drinking alcoholic beverages while you are operating the boat. An officer who sees other passengers of the boat drinking may decide to stop you just to check your sobriety – without any visible signs of intoxication on your part.
Another issue is that field sobriety tests may have very different results for someone who has spent hours on the water. You may not be able to walk in a straight line due to "sea legs" rather than alcohol – but the officer can still decide that your failure to pass the test constitutes intoxication. Given that many effects of sun and wind exposure are similar to the signs of over-indulgence in alcohol (reddened features, eyes, fatigue, etc.) your chances of appearing intoxicated are high regardless of whether you consumed any alcohol.
Penalties for BWI include the following:
- First offense – fine of up to $2,000 and/or jail time of up to 180 days.
- Second offense – fine of up to $4,000 and/or jail time of up to one year.
- Third offense – fine of up to $10,000 and/or jail time of 2-10 years.
If you are stopped for a suspected BWI and you refuse to submit to testing, your driver's license can be suspended for at least 180 days, just as it would be if you refused to take a test while driving an automobile. If you are convicted of BWI, your driver's license can also be suspended if you were operating a boat with at least 50 horsepower.
Given these harsh penalties, any BWI charges need to be handled promptly by an experienced attorney familiar with Texas boating and drunk driving litigation. If you or a loved one has been charged with BWI while boating on Lake Travis, Lake Austin, the Guadalupe River or any of our other waterways, you must act quickly to protect your rights. You have 15 days from the date the arresting officer serves you with a notice of suspension to request a hearing to contest the suspension or your license will be suspended. Usually, the deadline to request a hearing is 15 days after your DWI arrest.
Contact the Texas drunk driving attorneys at MBFC now by calling (512) 476-4873 or contact us via email. We will defend your rights and reputation.
We have 45 years of experience representing clients in Austin, TX and the surrounding communities, including: Travis County (Creedmoor, Elroy, Manor, Pflugerville); Williamson County (Cedar Park, Georgetown, Liberty Hill, Florence, Leander, Round Rock, Taylor); Hays County (Buda, Dripping Springs, Kyle, San Marcos, Wimberley); Bastrop County (Bastrop, Clearview, Elgin, Rockne, Smithville); Caldwell County (Lockhart, Luling); Burnet County (Bertram, Burnet, Marble Falls); and Comal County (Bulverde, Canyon Lake, Gruene, New Braunfels, Sattler, Startzville).