Texas has some of the best year around weather, making it a hot spot for boaters. What many Texas residents and visitors do not realize is that Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) and Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) is completely identical from a legal standpoint. Being intoxicated while behind the wheel of either machine will carry close to the same penalties according to the Texas Penal Code:
Section 49.06 of the Texas Penal Code, states, in relevant part -
Boating While Intoxicated (BWI)
(a) A person commits an offense if the person is intoxicated while operating a watercraft;
(b) Except as provided by Section 49.09, an offense under this section is a Class B misdemeanor, with a minimum term of confinement of 72 hours.
Boating While Intoxicated in Texas
Investigating for an offense of BWI, is in a sense, easier for Texas officers to ultimately make contact with possible suspects, because in that they always have the right to any boater on Texas’s waterways in order to conduct safety inspections. In other words, they are allowed to stop a boat just to see if they are carrying the proper amount of life vests. This affords them the opportunity to also check to see if there is alcohol being consumed, whereas in a DWI investigation there must be a reasonable cause and/or suspicion to stop a vehicle (when making the initial contact). Also, during the summer and holiday months, these safety inspections usually become more frequent.
Passengers on boats are legally allowed to consume alcoholic beverages. However, this could lead to the boat being stopped for an inspection. Anytime a Game Wardens and officers visually see an opened container in a boat the driver will usually be escorted to land to conduct the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests. This can be unfortunate due to the higher chance of failing due to their unbalanced equilibrium after being on a boat. Also, most individuals usually have sun burned faces that may give the appearance of alcohol consumption.
The laws regarding Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) can be found in Section 49.06 of the Texas Penal Code (and mirror the elements of the offense of DWI and also for Felony DWI offenses). This particular section states, in relevant part, that a person commits the offense of boating while intoxicated if the person is intoxicated while operating a watercraft. According the Texas Penal Code, "watercraft" is defined 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 water.
However, if there is an injury or death involved in a BWI case, a boater may be charged with intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter. The offense of intoxication assault, according to the Texas Penal Code Section 49.07, is committed if the person, by accident of mistake, "while operating an aircraft, watercraft, or amusement ride while intoxicated, or while operating a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated, by reason of that intoxication causes serious bodily injury to another." Serious bodily injury means injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes serious permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.
The offense of intoxication manslaughter, according to the Texas Penal Code Section 49.08, occurs if the person: operates a motor vehicle in a public place, operates an aircraft, a watercraft, or an amusement ride, or assembles a mobile amusement ride; and is intoxicated and by reason of that intoxication causes the death of another by accident or mistake.
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You can contact The Law Offices of Carl David Ceder at anytime for assistance at 214.702.CARL(2275) or at 469.2000.DWI(394). You can also e-mail Carl directly, at Carl@CederLaw.com; or to the office for general inquiries at Info@DFWDefenders.com. Phones should be answered 24 hours a day/7 days a week for immediate and prompt assistance. E-mail messages will try to be responded to with 24-48 hours, depending on whether Carl and his team is in trial and/or is busy working on a case for a contested hearing.