A BWI is just as bad as a DWI. In fact, the penalties are exactly the same. Watercraft is defined under Texas Penal Code 49.01(4) as a “vessel, one or more water skis, an aquaplane, or another device used for transporting or carrying a person on water, other than a device propelled only by the current of the water.”
If you get charged with boating while intoxicated (BWI), you could face expensive fines, a driver and/or boating license suspension and possible jail time. If your intoxication causes serious bodily injury or death, you may face felony charges.
Below, we detail why a BWI is as bad as a DWI, explaining the legal penalties and other consequences you might face.
Boating While Intoxicated Could Lead to Serious Criminal Charges
The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits for boating and drinking echo those of drunk driving. A person can be charged with a BWI offense for operating a watercraft while:
- Failing to have “normal use of mental or physical faculties” by being impaired by drugs or alcohol or a combination of both
- Having a BAC reading of 0.08% or higher
Most first-time BWIs are categorized as a class B misdemeanor and carry a hefty fine of up to $2,000 plus a possible jail sentence from three to 180 days and a driver’s license suspension between three months and a year.
Certain circumstances could elevate your charges and penalties:
- Any prior BWI or DWI convictions
- If another person sustained serious bodily injury as a result of the BWI offense
- If the accident caused the death of another person
Depending on your circumstances, if you have any prior convictions, or your BAC reading exceeds 0.15% or more, the penalties are increased to a class A misdemeanor, incurring steeper fines and longer jail time. You may even be required to install an interlock ignition device on your car at the discretion of the judge.
Marine Police Do Not Need Reasonable Suspicion to Pull Your Boat Over
While police typically need reasonable suspicion (such as running a stop sign or swerving) to pull you over on the road, the marine police can pull you over simply to perform a “safety check.” During this safety check, the police can look for probable cause to ask you to submit to a Breathalyzer test.
A BWI Defense Lawyer Can Help
There are many reasons why you want to seek legal assistance from a Texas BWI lawyer if you are facing charges for a BWI. Even a misdemeanor BWI charge can have negative consequences. However, in the event of a felony DWI, you could face a permanent criminal record with serious repercussion on your future, leading to problems with:
- Reduced employment opportunities
- Obtaining loans
- Providing for your family
- Your right to vote
- Owning and using a firearm
- Expensive auto insurance premiums
With so much at stake, it is vital to do everything you can to fight the charges. A Dallas, Texas criminal defense lawyer can help you establish your innocence or weaken the prosecution’s case by knowing how to look for any discrepancies in and challenging the evidence against you.
You Can Lose Your Driver’s License
A BWI arrest can cause you to lose your license. You will also need to fight to retain your driving license and have just 15 days to arrange a hearing with the Administrative License Revocation (ALR) Program. This is a civil administrative process your defense lawyer can help with that is separate from criminal proceedings.
Criminal Defense Attorneys at Your Side
Our team will examine your case to determine whether the police made any mistakes during your arrest, such as:
- Failing to obtain probable cause to request a BAC test
- Failing to perform the field sobriety test correctly (there is a different kind of test available for BWI arrests)
We can also work to establish reasonable doubt that you were operating a watercraft or that you were doing so while intoxicated.
Contact the Law Offices of Randall B. Isenberg if you are charged with a BWI. We can work alongside you and begin to build a comprehensive defense to defeat the charges where possible or negotiate the plea to a lesser charge and minimize the potential consequences of your BWI.
With over three decades of experience, attorney Randy Isenberg knows what it takes to fight your charges as a former Senior Chief Felony Prosecutor, State District Trial Judge, and criminal defense attorney. Call (214) 696-9253 and get started today.