Dallas County DWI Attorney Warns: Drinking while Boating Could Land You in Jail

In Texas, a motorist is considered to have committed the crime of driving while intoxicated or “DWI” if he or she is found to have been driving a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration or “BAC” at or above the legal limit of .08. However, what many Texans do not realize is that it also against the law to operate a boat with the same BAC. To make sure that your summer boating season is fun and legal, the following is what every boat operator needs to know about boating while intoxicated, or BWI:

What is BWI?

In the state of Texas, it is illegal to operate a boat, Jet Ski or any other type of motorized watercraft with a BAC at or above the legal limit. A person may also be charged with BWI if he or she appears to not be impaired by alcohol or in other words, not in control of his or her mental or physical faculties. Keep in mind, it is not illegal to consume alcohol while operating a boat. It is also not against the law to operate a non-motorized watercraft, such as a canoe or a kayak, with a BAC at or above .08.

What are the consequences of BWI?

Much like a DWI, a BWI offense is a serious charge. A person convicted of BWI can face fines of up to $2,000 and/or up to 180 days in jail for a first time offense. For a second time BWI offense, the penalties double. A person convicted could face fines of up to $4,000 and up to 365 days in jail.

Much like a DWI charge, a BWI can jeopardize a person’s license to operate a motor vehicle. A person who refuses to provide a breath or blood sample for testing could lose his or her driving privileges for 180 days. There is also an automatic suspension that goes into effect when a person is arrested for BWI, if he or she fails to request a hearing within 15 days of receiving a notice of suspension, (which is typically the same day the person is arrested).

How is a BWI different than a DWI?

To be arrested for DWI, a police officer first must have probable cause to pull a driver over. If the officer did not have the requisite probable cause, then in most cases, the charges against the driver will be thrown out or dismissed. However, with a BWI case an officer does not need probable cause to pull over a boat operator. Rather, in many cases, boat operators are arrested for BWI in connection with a routine stop to check for insurance, registration or to make sure the boat operator has onboard the required number of life jackets. If while during one of these routine stops the officer smells alcohol on the breath of the boat operator or notices that he or she has blood shot eyes, the officer can proceed to investigate the boat operator for BWI. This can include requesting a breath or blood sample and/or having the individual come to shore to perform field sobriety tests.

If you have been arrested and charged with boating while intoxicated or BWI, it is important that you speak with a Dallas County Attorney that has experience with both BWI and DWI.  Dallas County DWI Attorney Jack Pettit has provided aggressive representation for clients in Dallas and throughout Dallas County for more than 30 years. As a former prosecutor, Jack Pettit knows what it takes to fight a BWI charge. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, call the Law Office of Jack Pettit today at (214) 521-4567. Our office provides services to clients in both English and Spanish. Major credit cards are accepted as well.


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