How to Avoid a BWI in Texas This Summer

Whether you’re off to Galveston for the weekend or hitting Lake Travis, it’s good to know how to avoid a BWI in Texas before you have a drink out on the water. As an experienced DWI lawyer, Herman Martinez knows that a charge for boating while intoxicated (BWI) is no laughing matter, much like drunk driving. 

Moreover, these cases quickly become complicated. So, here’s what you need to know about BWIs in Texas. Should you find yourself facing charges, be sure to schedule a free consultation with our team as soon as possible. 

Is It Okay to Drink While Boating? 

Unlike driving a car, it is legal in Texas to consume alcohol while on the water. Per the Texas open container law, it is legal for passengers and operators of watercraft to have an open container. However, it is crucial that you keep it within the legal limit. 

In the State of Texas, a BWI and DWI are quite similar. The state defines both as legally intoxicated while operating a watercraft or vehicle. Additionally, the phrase “legally intoxicated” means not having the normal use of your physical or mental faculties or a BAC of 0.08 or higher. 

However, it’s important to note that this does not leave boat passengers immune to laws back on land. It’s still possible for passengers to face public intoxication charges even when the operator of the boat is sober. 

Float Tests: Marine Field Sobriety Tests

The goal of safety patrols is to ensure everyone is safe on the water. Still, they can saddle responsible boaters with charges if they don’t know how to avoid a BWI in Texas. Often, their aggressive tactics, called “float tests,” leave even sober captains in danger of harsh penalties. 

The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) created float tests because the standard field sobriety tests used on dry land aren’t reliable on the water. The purpose behind their creation was to increase the effectiveness of officers trying to combat BWIs. 

Unfortunately, they mainly made it more efficient to make quick arrests with rudimentary, unreliable tests. While they MAY make the waters safer, they leave too much room for unlawful arrests. 

Are BWIs and DWIs the Same?

Part of knowing how to avoid a BWI in Texas is understanding the key differences between a DWI and a BWI. These differences lie in the penalties and how officers enforce the laws. 

First, it’s quite easy to get a BWI. Oftentimes, game wardens and law enforcement officers wait at docks and watch boats load in. This is because they are legally able to stop people and perform a water safety check. 

These checks provide a broad cover to evaluate the emergency equipment, such as life jackets and fire extinguishers, but extend into alcohol consumption. When they suspect someone of drinking in dangerous quantities, they can submit the entire boating party to field sobriety tests. 

However, after a day out on the water, it is quite common for people to appear inebriated even without having too much to drink. This is due to sun exposure, heat, and general fatigue. Additionally, these tests are designed specifically to facilitate the arrest of boaters. 

The Penalties of BWIs

In Texas, the penalties of a BWI are quite similar to a DWI. These charges carry harsh penalties that only grow worse in light of harm to others or previous convictions. Often, jail time is possible. 

  • First Offense: $2,000 fine and 180 days in jail
  • With a serious injury: third-degree felony with a $10,000 fine and up to 10 years in jail
  • With a death: second-degree felony with a $10,000 fine and up to 20 years in jail
  • Second Offense: $4,000 fine with up to a year in jail 
  • Third Offense: $10,000 fine with up to 20 years in jail

While it is legal to have alcohol on a boat, it’s important to understand that alcohol is involved in the majority of fatal boat accidents. The U.S. Coast Guard notes that a BAC over 0.10 makes someone 10 times more likely to die in a boat accident. No one wants their day ruined by someone who drinks too much on the water and loses control of themselves. 

Out on the water, drinking brings dangers that are not present on the land. Alcohol impacts balance, which is already affected by the water, and reduces body temperature, which can lead to hypothermia if you fall into the water. 

When you plan to go out on the water, bring plenty of water and food. Remember, it is more exhausting to say on the water than on land. Moreover, the distance you can swim sober might drastically decrease while intoxicated. 

If you want to know how to avoid a BWI in Texas, the best option is to stay hydrated and limit your drinking to a responsible amount. 

Are You Facing a BWI in Texas? Call Herman Martinez Today!

Now that you know how to avoid a BWI in Texas, it’s important to know what to do in the event you face BWI charges. As soon as possible, reach out to a skilled DWI lawyer in Houston, TX. With an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side, you have someone to pursue the best possible outcome of your case. 

Stay calm and schedule a consultation with The Martinez Law Firm today.