Boating While Intoxicated

You have probably heard of the crime driving while intoxicated (DWI) at some point. What you might not know is that those laws extend to other types of mode of transportation including boats. Boating while intoxicated (BWI) is a very serious crime in the state of Texas and can result in the same harsh penalties as DWI.

What separates BWI and DWI is that officers aren’t required to have probable cause to conduct a boat stop. In Texas, law enforcement is authorized to stop any watercraft they believe haven’t updated their equipment based on Texas boating laws or follow the requirements necessary for boating. This drastically differs from DWI cases where law enforcement isn’t permitted to stop you unless they have some sort of probable cause.

Since law enforcement are legally allowed to enter your boat at any time, a BWI charge is much more difficult to defend than DWI. That’s why it’s vital you have an experienced BWI defense attorney on your side with extensive practice in the field. Having an attorney who knows the difference between a successful BWI and DWI defense will significantly raise your chances of reduced or dismissed charges.

Houston BWI Defense Attorney in Texas

You’re relaxing on your boat with friends or family when suddenly you see the lights of the maritime police. At first, you think they’ll just glide on by, but instead the officers ask you to stop so they can step on your boat. The next thing you know you’re in handcuffs and told you’re charged with boating while intoxicated, how is this possible? If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, it’s important you get in touch with The Benken Law Firm.

BWI defense lawyer Brain Benken at The Benken Law Firm has been defending clients from both DWI and BWI for years. He has an in-depth knowledge of both the maritime laws and traffic laws under the Texas Penal Code. So, he has a thorough understanding of what makes a BWI different than DWI and how to poke holes in the prosecution’s case. To set up your first consultation with The Benken Law Firm, call (713) 223 - 4051. At the meeting Brian Benken will overlook your case details and begin charting out a defense plan for you.

The Benken Law Firm has clients throughout all parts of Texas and Harris County including Houston Height, Pasadena, Alief, and Westchase.

Info Center for BWI in Texas:

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BWI vs. DWI in Texas

Regarding the penalties, there aren’t many differences between DWI and BWI. What divides a BWI from a DWI is the way law enforcement stops a motor vehicle versus a watercraft. A police officer must have probable cause when conducting a traffic stop, which means law enforcement can’t pull you over without a valid reason. If it’s found at trial there was no probable cause for the traffic stop, then it’s likely the judge will reduce your charges or dismiss the whole case entirely.

Maritime police handle boat stops very differently than a standard police officer. Texas law permits law enforcement to stop any watercraft to conduct a water safety check for requirements such as wearing a life vest or having proper lights installed. This means the maritime police doesn’t require any probable cause to conduct a water safety check. If they determine you’re BWI whilst doing the check, your attorney won’t be able to utilize the defense that the stop was unlawful.

What will often happen in BWI cases is that a police officer will detect signs of dehydration rather than intoxication. Many boaters who have been cruising the waters all day have bloodshot eyes, wobbly legs and facial redness due to dehydration. However, all these symptoms are also considered to be telltale signs of intoxication according to law enforcement. Mix nerves with symptoms of dehydration and the result is a person who appears inebriated.

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Difference Between a DWI and BWI in Texas

Boating under the influence is very similar to driving under the influence, but there are a few distinct differences that set the two crimes a part. These distinctions are why it’s crucial you have legal representation on your side with BWI case experience. It can be difficult for a standard DWI attorney to determine a solid defense for a BWI case because they can’t rely on the stop or law enforcement acting unlawfully.

The differences between a DWI and BWI case in Texas are listed below.

  • It’s not illegal on a watercraft to have an open container and drink on the boat if you’re not operating the watercraft under the influence;
  • Law enforcement are permitted to stop your boat at any time to conduct a water safety check and during this stop you could be charged with BWI; and
  • Maritime police may ask you to perform seated float sobriety tests instead of an standard land field sobriety test

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What are the Penalties for BWI in Texas?

Number of Offenses Crime Classification Fine Jail or Prison Term  License Suspension
First Offense Class B Misdemeanor  $2,000 72 hours – 180 days 6 months – 1 year
Intoxication Assault Third Degree Felony  $10,000 2 – 10 years 6 months – 1 year
Intoxication Manslaughter Second Degree Felony  $10,000 2 – 20 years 6 months – 1 year
Second Offense Class A Misdemeanor $4,000 30 days to 1 year 6 months – 1 year
Third Offense Third Degree Felony $10,000 2 – 20 years 6 months – 1 year

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Additional Resources

Safety Requirements for Vessels – Visit the official website for the Texas Parks and Wildlife to learn more about the safety requirements for boats and other watercrafts. Access the site to learn more about the requirements needed to operate a personal watercrafts, sailboats, motorboats, canoes/kayaks, and other water vessels.

Texas DWI Laws – Visit the official website for the Texas Legislature to learn more about driving under the influence or boating under the influence. Access the site to learn more about the penalties for the crimes, boating while intoxicated, flying while intoxicated (FWI), and possible admissible defenses.

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DWI Defense Lawyer for BWI in Houston, Texas

If you or someone you know has been charged with boating while intoxicated or any other relevant traffic offense, it’s imperative you seek experienced legal representation before moving forward. Find an experienced and skilled lawyer with The Benken Law Firm. Houston BWI defense lawyer Brain Benken has defended hundreds of people of DWI and other related alcohol offenses such as flying while intoxicated (FWI) and boating while intoxicated (BWI).

You can set up your first consultation with The Benken Law Firm absolutely free at (713) 223 - 4051. The Benken Law Firm represents people throughout all parts of Texas and Harris County.

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(713) 223 - 4051
Benken Law