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.