With summer upon us, many folks are headed out onto the water to enjoy some time with family and friends. However, the Houston Police Department is already warning the public to avoid boating while intoxicated. In fact the Department told the media that their Marine Unit will have a heavy presence this Memorial Day. Twelve-hour shifts on Lake Houston and other waterways are expected.
If you think you will avoid detection, think again. The Marine Unit intends to do random stops like they always do. Of course, they are looking for things like life jackets, horns, and other safety equipment. But you can be sure they will have their eye on anyone who appears intoxicated. If you are boating under the influence, you can expect criminal charges and a big headache.
Is Boating While Intoxicated Really a Crime?
It absolutely is!
Penal Code Section 49.06 states that a person commits this offense if they are intoxicated while operating any watercraft. You are intoxicated under the statute if you have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more or you do not have normal use of your faculties due to drugs or alcohol or some combination.
As you can see, the definition of intoxicated is substantially the same as it is for those driving a motor vehicle. You can be convicted regardless of the number you blow on a breathalyzer.
Watercraft also has a broad meaning under 49.01(4):
- Boats or vessels
- Water skis
- Any device that transports people across water other than one that is only propelled by water
So avoid getting onto jet skis after having too much to drink. Houston PD’s Marine Unit won’t hesitate to stop you.
What Penalties Am I Facing for a Conviction?
In most cases, BWI is a Class B misdemeanor with a required 72 hours in jail. You might receive more—up to 180 days and a maximum $2,000 fine. This is a good way to ruin a summer weekend.
If you have a prior BWI or DWI, then your conviction gets upgraded to a Class A misdemeanor. Minimum confinement is 30 days, but you could be in jail for up to a year. There is a maximum $4,000 fine.
If this is your third offense, then you are facing third-degree felony charges and up to 20 years in prison. You’ll also pay a big fine (possibly up to $10,000) and lose civil rights.
Even worse, any BWI conviction will result in a driver’s license suspension. You will now need some way to get to school or work or even to buy groceries. It truly doesn’t pay to drink and operate a vessel.
What If Someone Was Injured in My Boating Accident?
Penalties get enhanced for serious bodily injury or death. You absolutely need to meet with a lawyer at the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today. We can review your criminal record and analyze the best way to defend you from these charges. Any alcohol-related offense which results in an injured victim will be treated very seriously by the state and judges. Don’t face these charges alone.