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BWI – Boating While Intoxicated

BWI – Boating While Intoxicated

With summer activities kicking into full gear and people beginning to relax on their boats throughout the Austin lake ways of  Travis, Williamson, and Hays counties it’s a great time to discuss Boating While Intoxicated.

Enjoy your time hanging out at Devil’s Cove, Carlos & Charlie’s or The Oasis on Lake Travis — but be careful while consuming alcohol because you could get more than just a bad sunburn.

Many people are unaware that Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) is a crime but it is and was responsible for more than 300 arrests in Texas in 2010. Under Texas Penal Code § 49.06, BWI is a Class B misdemeanor. It is illegal to operate a boat with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher (the same BAC that will result in an arrest for a DWI). You may also be charged with BWI in Texas if you are operating a boat and do not have normal use of your mental or physical facilities due to alcohol or drugs.

BWI FACTS:

  • A BWI carries the same penalty as a DWI.
  • A first conviction can result in a fine up to $2,000 and/or jail time up to 180 days.
  • A second conviction can result in a fine up to $4,000 and/or jail time up to one year.
  • A third conviction can result in a fine up to $10,000 and/or jail time of 2-10 years.
  • If you are found boating while intoxicated on a vessel that has an engine over 50 horsepower (this includes boats and jet skis), your license will automatically be suspended.
oasis at lake travis

Image by Tara Deck

Unlike a DWI an officer is not required to have probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop your boat and test you for suspected impairment. On a boat, you can be stopped at the officer’s discretion to check the boat for safety floatation devices. The officer may then proceed to conduct a sobriety test based on factors he witnesses while on the boat such as smelling alcohol on breath, bloodshot eyes or a red face. Some of these factors could easily be explained as sun exposure but will frequently lead officers to conduct field sobriety tests. Officers may also stop boaters for other reasons including: driving the boat too fast for the waterway, aggressive turns, or failure to turn on lights and other equipment.

To investigate whether a person was boating while intoxicated an officer will likely perform some sobriety tests on the water to determine if there is reason to conduct a further investigation on land. The tests performed “on the water” will likely include such things as reciting the alphabet and divided attention tests (including hand-palm touches or a finger count). Officers are instructed to wait 15 minutes before administering sobriety tests on land, so that a person may regain his equilibrium after being removed from water to land.

Ultimately, the best thing you can do to protect yourself from being charged with a BWI is to appoint a designated driver or don’t drink and drive.

If you have any questions about what constitutes Boating While Intoxicated or have been charged with an alcohol related offense, feel free to visit us on Facebook and post a question, leave a comment or fill out a free case evaluation form with no obligation.

 

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Public Intoxication


Man passed out from drinking.Public Intoxication is a Class C misdemeanor, the same as a general traffic ticket, and punishable by a fine up to $500 with the possibility of jail time up to 12 hours. Some may consider a Public Intoxication charge a minor offense since it is only a Class C misdemeanor but having this on your record could very likely affect your future by hindering job or education opportunities.

According to Texas Penal Code § 49.02, if a person appears in a public place while intoxicated to the degree that he may endanger himself or another person he is guilty of Public Intoxication. Intoxication means that a person lacks the normal use of mental or physical abilities because of the presence of alcohol, a drug (prescription, controlled, or even over-the-counter), a combination of substances, or any other substance in the body.

A public place means any place to which the public has access and includes, but is not limited to, streets, highways, and the common areas of schools, hospitals, apartments, office buildings, transport facilities, and shops. A person could be charged with Public Intoxication in a bar or even riding as a passenger in a car. At the time of the offense, the officer could merely issue a citation and release the individual to the care of an adult but an officer may arrest the person and have them remain in jail for up to 12 hours.

If a minor (under the age of 21) is arrested for Public Intoxication, the consequences do not stop with a mere fine. A minor’s license may be suspended for 30 days. A minor’s second offense can result in a suspension of 60 days and a third can result of 180 days.

Being arrested for Public Intoxication can be both a humiliating and traumatic experience but if you find yourself in that position, make sure you find an attorney that you can trust to do everything possible to help fight for you and win your case. There are good criminal defense attorneys serving Williamson, Travis, Hays, Collin,
Dallas, and Tarrant Counties that can assist you with your legal needs.

If you have any questions about what constitutes public intoxication or have been charged with any other alcohol related offense, feel free to leave a comment or visit us on Facebook and fill out a free case evaluation form with no obligation.

 

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