Boating DWI (BWI) in Texas

Often, a day on the lake includes food and a cold beer or other form of alcohol.  While this is perfectly legal, it is important to keep in mind that most Texas DWI laws are in force when operating a motorized watercraft.  However, because the watercraft must be motorized, this excludes canoes, kayaks and other paddle boats operated by human force.

Unlike in the operation of an automobile, it is legal to consume alcohol while operating a watercraft.  However, if doing so causes you to have a blood alcohol level above 0.08, you may be arrested for a BWI.  Also, unlike in a DWI, a police officer does not have to have probable cause to stop you while operating a boat.  On the road, an officer must have reasonable suspicion to pull you over, such as for speeding or swerving.  But on the water, an officer may stop you at any time to check for an operator’s license or life jackets, regardless of the way you are operating the boat.  In the process, an officer may sense that you are impaired and may ask you to perform a field sobriety test.  A field sobriety test following a long day on the lake may present all sorts of problems for you as a driver, even when you are not impaired.  These include weak legs from waterskiing, bloodshot eyes from the water, red skin from the sun and more.

The penalties attached to a BWI in Texas are the same as for a DWI.  They include:

  • 1st conviction: A fine up to $2,000 and/or jail time up to 180 days
  • 2nd conviction: A fine up to $4,000 and/or jail time up to one year
  • 3rd conviction: A fine up to $10,000 and/or jail time up to two to 10 years

Furthermore, a BWI conviction can act as a first conviction for a subsequent DWI, making your first DWI a second conviction.

Being charged with BWI is a serious offense.  If you have been charged with BWI in Texas, it is important that you contact an experienced BWI defense attorney who can defend your case and help protect your rights.

A Football Player, a Ring and a Broken Engagement

In a recent lawsuit filed in Harris County, Texas, Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams sued his ex-fiancée, demanding that she return a $785,000 diamond engagement ring. Williams alleged that Erin Marzouki broke off the engagement last January and never had any intention of marrying him. Williams accused Marzouki of absconding with the ring.

Marzouki filed a counter-suit, denying the allegations and accusing Williams of having numerous instances of cold feet and ultimately breaking off the engagement himself. Marzouki alleges that Williams made it clear in writing that he wanted her to keep the ring after their last of many breakups in December. According to her, Williams communicated his wishes in text messages to her father and brother.

This raises the question:  When the engagement is broken, who gets the ring?

Texas courts will usually consider an engagement ring to be a conditional gift in contemplation of marriage.  This means that unless the future event occurs, the gift isn’t final.  If the event (the marriage) doesn’t happen, the gift must be returned. This rule is founded upon the principle that if the person that accepted the engagement ring is the one who breaks the engagement off, then the ring should be returned because the gift was never completed.

However, a court may also look at whose fault it is that the marriage was called off.  Sometimes, a court will rule that if the ring giver had a change of heart, the recipient should be allowed to keep the ring. The issue of who broke off the engagement seems to be a big question in the Williams/Marzouki engagement, so how the court will ultimately rule may turn upon this fact.

Only time will tell if diamonds really are this girl’s best friend.  However, if you are either seeking to keep an engagement ring or get one back due to a botched engagement, working with a knowledgeable San Antonio family law attorney will help you obtain relief you desire.

Considerations for Drafting Your Will

Drafting a will can be a complex and daunting task for most people and, because of that, most people put it off for years. Your wills and estates attorney can help guide you through the process with ease, but here is a primer on items you should be thinking about before drafting your will:

  • Name the people who will inherit your property — Most people choose their spouse and children to inherit property, but if you have neither, name other family members or friends. You should also choose an alternate beneficiary in case your first choice doesn’t survive you.

  • Name property — Your lawyer can help you decide which property to include in your will and what items to leave out because some assets, like life insurance and retirement accounts, transfer outside of your will. But you should start compiling a list of all of your major assets.

  • Name an executor — Start thinking of someone who could serve as executor to carry out the terms of your will. Talk to this person ahead of time to make sure they are willing to serve in this capacity.

  • Name a guardian for your children — If you have minor children, start thinking of a guardian and alternate guardian who could step in and raise your children in the event that something happens to both you and your spouse. Make sure that these people are willing to take on this very important role.

Once you’ve made these decisions, your trusted San Antonio wills and estates attorney can help you finalize your will and make sure that it complies with Texas law.

Am I Eligible for Alimony?

When a couple is divorcing, the alimony question is on everyone’s mind. You may be wondering how much alimony (sometimes referred to as spousal support) you may have to pay or how much you may receive.

In 2011, the Texas alimony laws radically changed. While the new law is praised for being more fair and balanced, alimony in Texas still is not guaranteed. Alimony is need-based and is granted only to provide for a spouse’s minimum reasonable needs. A judge orders alimony only when a spouse cannot earn sufficient income to meet his/her needs and it is ordered only for a defined minimum period.

Texas alimony law allows for a payment of up to $5,000 per month, or 20 percent of a spouse’s average monthly gross income, whichever is less. Under the new law, no alimony is awarded for marriages that lasted under 10 years. If the marriage lasted between 10–20 years, alimony can be awarded for up to five years after the marriage ends. If the marriage lasted 20–30 years, alimony can be awarded for up to seven years. Finally, if the marriage lasted 30 years or longer, alimony can be awarded for up to 10 years.

A judge considers many factors before determining how much alimony to order and for how long. To identify minimum reasonable needs, the judge considers the age, education and employment skills of the spouse requesting alimony. If one spouse contributed to the marriage as a homemaker or helped the other spouse attain education, those factors are considered as well. The judge may also consider whether either party hid assets, committed fraud, committed adultery or engaged in family violence.

If a spouse’s circumstances change once alimony is ordered, the alimony order can be altered by filing a petition with the court.

If alimony is in your future, either on the paying or receiving end, it’s best to consult with an experienced family law attorney to best protect your rights.