Arrests for operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol also apply to operating watercraft. In most respects, the charges and penalties for boating while intoxicated (BWI) are the same as for driving a vehicle while intoxicated. The tests and measurements used to determine the level of intoxication are the same. In addition to fines and jail time, anyone convicted of operating any watercraft while intoxicated may also lose their operating privileges and may be required to install an IID to start any motorized vehicle. Both operations of boats and vehicles while intoxicated impose more severe penalties for second and subsequent offenses.

According to the Texas Penal Code, Section 49.06 “A person commits an offense if the person is intoxicated while operating a watercraft..” This offense is a Class B misdemeanor which imposes a minimum jail sentence of 72 hours for a first offense. Anyone with a prior operation while intoxicated conviction (for boats, cars, or other qualifying vehicles such as aircraft) will face addition penalties.

According to Texas Penal Code, Section 12.22, anyone guilty of Class B misdemeanor:

  • May be confined jail for up to 180 days
  • May be required pay a fine up to $2,000
  • May be required to pay the fine AND be confined

The operator’s driver’s or boating license may be suspended too. A conviction will likely result in much higher insurance premiums. A judge may also require that the operator install an ignition interlock device on any vehicles they operate – includes cars and motorized boats.

What are the enhanced penalties for a boating while intoxicated conviction?

The penalties (fines, prison time, license suspension duration, and requirement to use an ignition interlock device) increase if:

  • The blood alcohol content level of the boat operator is .15 or more
  • Someone was killed or seriously injured due to a boating accident which was caused by the intoxication
  • The defendant has a prior conviction for operation of a boat, car, truck, or other motorized vehicles while inxtoxicated

The judge could require that an IID device must be used on all your vehicles (even if you were operating the boat).

Can your driver’s license be suspended for driving a boat while intoxicated?

Yes. Your license may be suspended based on your conviction for operating a watercraft while intoxicated when the boat has 50 horsepower or more. Your licenses may also be suspended if you failed to provide a breath or blood test when requested. Boat operators give their implied consent to these chemical tests.

What defenses to a BWI apply?

For the most part, the defenses used in DUI cases also apply to BWI cases. An experienced Killeen defense lawyer can challenge the validity of the chemical tests and whether the arresting officer explained the consequences for refusing to take the test. We hold the government to its duty to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

At Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm, our Killeen BWI defense lawyers have extensive experience fighting for the rights of anyone charged with driving any vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. We contest the admissibility of chemical tests and persuasively challenge police testimony to help defendants obtain just results in criminal court. We also negotiate just plea agreements when possible. For help with any BWI or DUI case, call us at 254-680-4655 or fill out our contact form. We have offices in Killeen, Waco, and Copperas Cove.