If a person is convicted for the first time of operating a vessel while intoxicated, they are guilty of boating while intoxicated (BWI). It does not matter if this is your first, second, or third conviction; BWI is the charge in all cases, regardless of how many times you have been convicted. However, the penalties for BWI may differ depending on how many prior convictions you have. Generally, penalties get steeper with each subsequent conviction.
Drugs and Alcohol Affect How You Drive
The phrase “driving under the influence” is most often used in reference to operating a car after drinking alcohol. More specifically, it refers to anyone caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 (the legal limit in most states) or above.
However, this presents an incomplete picture. Even a small amount of alcohol can impair a driver’s:
- Ability to make good decisions
- Ability to control their temper
This holds true whether you are operating a car, a truck, a boat, a plane, or any other vehicle. In fact, drinking and driving can have destructive consequences, no matter what vehicle you operate. Page 28 of a report released by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) shows that alcohol contributed to 309 boating accidents in 2018 alone. These accidents resulted in 275 injuries and 119 fatalities.
Furthermore, alcohol is not the only substance that can affect your ability to operate a vehicle safely. As the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states, any type of drug—legal or illegal—may affect how you drive.
To be safe, it is best to avoid drugs and alcohol altogether if you are planning on operating a boat or any other vehicle. If you are on a prescription, make sure you understand the potential side effects before you get behind the wheel. If you plan on drinking or taking recreational drugs, make sure that someone else is available and capable of operating the boat for you.
The Penalties of Boating While Intoxicated
If this is your first offense, then you are likely facing less stringent penalties than those who have been convicted once or twice already. However, that does not mean you will escape unscathed. A BWI conviction may cost you:
- Money (through fines, court fees, and time away from work)
- Time (through going to court or being sentenced to prison or community service)
- Self-image (through knowing you have been convicted of a crime)
In addition, convictions can stay on your public record for years, if not for life. This may have long-term effects like keeping you from buying the house you want, going to a preferred school, exercising your right to vote, and more.
If you have been charged with boating while intoxicated, it is normal to feel scared or overwhelmed. An attorney can help you with your case.
Seeking Legal Representation
While you are not legally required to hire a lawyer, legal representation may afford you peace of mind. It is your lawyer’s job to do anything and everything they can to ensure you are given the lightest possible penalty or absolved of the charges altogether. How they do this varies from case to case, but steps often include:
- Providing honest advice: Just having someone to explain your legal options and address your concerns can make the legal process seem less intimidating.
- Investigating the incident: A lawyer can collect evidence concerning the alleged BWI incident, as well as the police’s conduct throughout the case.
- Seeking a dismissal: If your lawyer uncovers evidence of your innocence, police error, or the like, they can argue that the charges against you should be dropped.
- Seeking a reduction: If your case cannot be dismissed for any reason, your lawyer may bargain for a lesser charge that carries less severe penalties.
- Advocating for you: Not all cases go to trial. However, if yours does, your lawyer will defend you before a judge and jury.
If convicted for the first time of operating a vessel while intoxicated, a person is guilty of an offense that may cost them their license, their reputation, and more. At the Law Offices of Randall B. Isenberg, we believe that everyone is innocent until proven guilty and that everyone deserves legal representation to protect their rights.
Call us at (214) 696-9253 for a free consultation at any time.