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Boating While Intoxicated

It’s common knowledge that driving while intoxicated is a serious crime in Texas. What you might not know is that boating while intoxicated (BWI) is also just as serious of a crime. Many boaters don’t take into account that they can get arrested for drinking and operating a boat.

Boating while intoxicated is a serious charge and carries the same penalties as a DWI. What separates DWI and BWI charges, however, is that officers don’t need probable cause to conduct a boat stop. Law enforcement are entitled to stop any boat they believe may not have up to date equipment or requirements necessary for boating.

This means it can be much more difficult to fight BWI charges since the defense can’t rely on the stop being unlawful. That is why it’s incredibly important you hire an attorney with extensive BWI experience to represent your case.

Attorney for Boating While Intoxicated in Austin, TX

Were you arrested for drinking and operating a boat? Are you unsure how to handle your BWI charges and the possible penalties? If so, we highly recommend you secure legal counsel that you can trust. If you or someone you know has been arrested for BWI, we urge you to contact The Law Office of Kevin Bennett for legal representation.

Attorney Kevin Bennett is an Austin-raised resident with a passion for representing his clients. He understands that the penalties for DWI or BWI are severe and can assist you with quality legal service. With his resources and knowledge, Kevin Bennett may be the right fit for your case. Call him at (512) 476-4626 to set up your first consultation completely free.

The Law Office of Kevin Bennett represents people throughout the greater Travis County area including Austin, Del Valle, Bee Cave, Lago Vista and West Lake Hills.

Overview of BWI Charges in Texas


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What’s the Difference Between a DWI and BWI Stop in Texas?

Penalty-wise, there really aren’t many differences between a DWI and BWI. However, how law enforcement conduct boating stops is much different than pulling over a driver in a vehicle. Police officers must have probable cause to conduct a traffic stop. This means they can’t simply pull you over without any reason. So, if the stop was found to be unlawful then the judge is likely to reduce or dismiss your charges entirely.

Boating while intoxicated stops are handled in a much different manner. In Texas, law enforcement is legally permitted to stop any watercraft for the sole purpose of conducting a water safety check for requirements such as wearing a life vest or having improper lights. Therefore, officers don’t need any probable cause to pull your boat over so stating the stop was unlawful won’t be a viable defense.

What often happens in BWI cases is that police officers confuse signs of dehydration with intoxication. Boaters who have been on the water all day could have facial redness, bloodshot eyes and wobbly legs—which are all signs of both intoxication and dehydration. These factors mixed with nerves can really make an officer suspicious that you’re under the influence.


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Major Differences Between DWI and BWI Charges

Although boating under the influence is similar to driving while intoxicated, they still have very distinct differences. These dissimilarities are why it’s imperative you have legal representation with extensive BWI experience rather than a standard DWI attorney. These differences include:

  • It’s not unlawful to have an open container and drink on a boat if you’re not operating the watercraft under the influence or drinking and operating it;
  • Law enforcement are entitled to stop your boat at any time for a routine safety check;
  • Officers may ask you to perform seated float sobriety tests instead of standard ones

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Penalties for Boating Under the Influence in Texas

The penalties for a Texas BWI are exactly the same as DWI. Certain factors such as having a child passenger or a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or higher. BWI cases where serious bodily injury or death of another person occurred also have enhanced penalties.

The following are the penalties for BWI in Texas.

ClassFineIncarceration License Suspension
First OffenseClass B Misdemeanor $2,00072 hours – 180 days6 months – 1 year
Intoxication AssaultThird Degree Felony $10,0002 – 10 years6 months – 1 year
Intoxication ManslaughterSecond Degree Felony $10,0002 – 20 years6 months – 1 year
Second Offense Class A Misdemeanor$4,00030 days to 1 year6 months – 1 year
Third OffenseThird Degree Felony$10,0002 – 20 years6 months – 1 year

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Additional Resources

Safety Requirements for Vessels – Visit the official website for the Texas Parks and Wildlife to learn more about the safety requirements for watercraft vessels. Access the site to learn more about what motorboats, personal watercrafts, sailboats, canoes/kayaks, and other water vessels need when on the water.

Texas DWI Laws – Visit the official website for the Texas Penal Code to learn more about driving or boating under the influence. Access the site to learn more about boating while intoxicated, flying while intoxicated (FWI), the penalties and possible admissible defenses.


BWI Defense Lawyer in Travis County, Texas

If you or someone you know has been arrested for BWI, it’s imperative you contact a skilled criminal defense attorney. For an experienced and compassionate lawyer, contact The Law Office of Kevin Bennett. Kevin Bennett has an in-depth knowledge of BWI/DWI law and can use his years of practice as an advantage in your case.

Call (512) 476-4626 to set up your first consultation completely free. The Law Office of Kevin Bennett represents people throughout the greater Travis County area including Del Valle, Bee Cave, Austin, Pflugerville, Lago Vista and West Lake Hills.


This article was last updated on September 27, 2019. 

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