A relaxing afternoon on the water in Plano can turn stressful if you are arrested for boating while intoxicated. Texas law takes a firm stance on drunk boating, as it can be just as dangerous as driving drunk.
Even a first offense conviction for boating while intoxicated involves mandatory jail time and monetary fines. And, just like a DWI, the conviction will remain on your record forever. Do not make the mistake of believing you can fight these charges on your own. A boating while intoxicated (BWI) lawyer in Plano can help protect your legal rights and ensure the best possible outcome for your case.
Contact the Law Offices of Randall B. Isenberg at 214-696-9253 to learn more about how we can help.
What is boating while intoxicated?
If you are not familiar with this crime, boating while intoxicated is very similar to driving while intoxicated, except in a watercraft rather than a vehicle on land.
Per the Texas Penal Code, the definition of a watercraft is as follows, “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 water.”
This definition encompasses motor boats, sail boats, personal watercraft (jet skis etc.) and, as you may have noticed in the statutory definition, even water skis.
The statute defines intoxication as having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above 0.08. However, a police officer can also arrest you for BWI if you lack appropriate motor skills, coordination, and judgment to safely operate a boat or other watercraft.
What are the penalties for boating while intoxicated (BWI)?
A first offense BWI is a class B misdemeanor offense, punishable as follows:
- Mandatory minimum jail time of 72 hours
- Potential county jail sentence of up to 6 months
- Monetary fine up to $2,000
- Driver’s license suspension up to 1 year
A second BWI charge is a class A misdemeanor, punishable as follows:
- Mandatory minimum jail time of 30 days
- Potential county jail sentence of up to 1 year
- Monetary fine up to $4,000
- Driver’s license suspension up to 2 years
Third and subsequent BWIs are third-degree felonies, punishable as follows:
- Mandatory minimum prison sentence of two years
- Potential prison sentence of up to 10 years
- Monetary fine up to $10,000
- Driver’s license suspension up to 2 years
Your sentence may also include probation, mandatory community service, mandatory attendance of a substance abuse education program, or a boating safety course.
If you have a BAC of 0.15 or above, the charges and penalties are higher. Enhancements and additional charges may apply if you caused an accident while boating under the influence, especially if someone sustained injuries or death.
How is a BWI different than a DWI in Texas?
Although the statutes for BWI and DWI are similar, boating while intoxicated has a few key differences you should be aware of.
- Although DWI laws only apply when operating a vehicle in a public place, no such restriction applies to BWI.
- Police officers can board a vessel to complete a random safety check. This means they do not need reasonable suspicionof your intoxication to board your boat.
- At one time, officers were supposed to conduct field sobriety testing for a BWI on land. In fact, they were obligated to provide you with 15 minutes, once you reach the shore, to regain your balance before testing. Today, officers can conduct seated standardized field sobriety testingaboard a vessel.
- You are not subject to open container laws aboard a vessel.
One very important way that DWI and BWI are the same, however, is what may happen to your driver’s license after an arrest.
Do you know that BWI can cost you your driver’s license?
In Plano, a BWI arrest can result in a lengthy suspension of your driver’s license. In fact, the civil process for Administrative License Revocation (ALR) after a BWI is the same as it is for DWI.
When the police arrest you for BWI, they will confiscate your driver’s license and issue you a temporary permit to drive a car. You then have 15 days to formally request an ALR hearing.
If you fail to schedule your hearing, the Texas Department of Public Safety (TxDPS) will suspend your license automatically, even if the state does not ultimately convict you for BWI.
To minimize the time you lose your license, a BWI attorney from the Law Offices of Randall B. Isenberg can make your case at the ALR hearing. In addition, your lawyer will have the opportunity to review the evidence in your BWI case and question the arresting officer under oath.
Once your license suspension is up, you must pay a surcharge ($1,000 to $2,000) each year for three years to reactive your license.
How can I fight BWI charges?
If you choose not to fight your BWI charges, you will spend time in jail, pay some hefty fines, and lose your driver’s license for a period of time.
A BWI conviction also comes with a permanent criminal record. This can lead to auto insurance companies labeling you as a high-risk driver and charging exorbitant premiums.
Your conviction will come up on every background check, whether that be from a potential employer or landlord.
Also, a boating while intoxicated conviction counts as a drunk driving conviction for the purposes of repeat offenses. Which means that, upon a future arrest for driving while intoxicated, the state will charge you with a second offense DWI.
Hiring a Texas BWI lawyer is the best way to protect your legal rights and improve the potential outcome of your case.
A Plano BWI attorney can investigate your case and negotiate with the prosecutor for a reduction or dismissal of your charges. He might be able to prove that your inability to operate your boat carefully was simply the result of being out in the sun all day or that you had a medical condition that caused a false positive on your breathalyzer. If it comes down to taking your case to court, we can mount the strongest possible case in your defense.
Call today for a FREE consultation with a BWI attorney in Plano.
For any criminal charge, you need an advocate to protect your legal rights and help you make the best choices for your case. Randall Isenberg has 30 years’ experience as a felony prosecutor, District Court trial judge, and defense lawyer. That is exactly the type of experience you need in a criminal defense lawyer.
Contact the Law Offices of Randall B. Isenberg to schedule a complimentary consultation and case review, or to talk to a BWI lawyer in Plano: 214-696-9253.