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Boating While Intoxicated (BWI)

Just as state law in Texas prohibits people from operating motor vehicles in public places while intoxicated, individuals can also face criminal charged for allegedly operating watercrafts while intoxicated. An arrest for boating while intoxicated (BWI) carries many of the same penalties as an arrest for driving while intoxicated (DWI).

It is important to understand that many of the symptoms commonly associated with intoxication may be actually explained by other factors unique to time spent on the water. For example, some people may exhibit red eyes or have difficulty completing field sobriety tests because of prolonged exposure to heat or other aspects of certain environments on the water, not because they were allegedly drunk.

Lawyer for Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) Arrests in Houston, TX

If you were arrested for an alleged BWI offense anywhere in southeast Texas, it is in your best interest retain legal counsel as soon as possible. Horak Law aggressively defends clients facing all over Harris County, including The Woodlands, Conroe, Richmond-Rosenberg, Pearland, Houston, Missouri City, Spring, League City, Galveston, Sugar Land, Pasadena, and several other nearby areas.

Matt Horak is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Houston will work tirelessly to help you achieve the most favorable possible outcome to your case. You can have our lawyer review your case and discuss all of your legal options when you call our firm at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009 to schedule a free, confidential consultation.


Harris County Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) Information Center


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Texas BWI Charges

Texas Penal Code § 49.06 establishes that a person commits the crime of BWI if he or she is intoxicated while operating a watercraft. Under Texas Penal Code § 49.01(2), intoxicated is defined as "not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body" or having a blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or more.

A watercraft is defined under Texas Penal Code § 49.01(4) as meaning "a vessel, one or more water skis, an aquaplane, or another device used for transporting or carrying a person on water, other than a device propelled only by the current of water." BWI is typically a Class B misdemeanor, but a second conviction is a Class A misdemeanor and a third or subsequent conviction is a third-degree felony.

Some alleged offenders can face the following enhanced charges in certain situations:

  • BWI with BAC of 0.15 or More — Under Texas Penal Code § 49.04(d), an alleged offender can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor if he or she registers a BAC of 0.15 or higher (occasionally referred to as an "extreme DWI");
  • Intoxication Assault — Texas Penal Code § 49.07 establishes that an alleged offender can be charged with a third-degree felony if he or she, by accident or mistake, causes serious bodily injury to another person as the result of while operating a watercraft while intoxicated; or
  • Intoxication Manslaughter — Under Texas Penal Code § 49.08, an alleged offender can be charged with a second-degree felony if he or she, by accident or mistake, causes the death of another person as the result of operating a watercraft while is intoxicated.

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BWI Penalties in Harris County

BWI convictions not only carry possible criminal penalties, but alleged offenders can also face several civil consequences. The possible sentence an alleged offender will receive if convicted depends on how the alleged crime has been classified and is generally punishable as follows:

  • Class B misdemeanor — Up to 180 days in jail and/or fine of up to $2,000;
  • Class A misdemeanor — Up to one year in jail and/or fine of up to $4,000;
  • Third-Degree Felony — Up to 10 years in prison and/or fine of up to $10,000; and
  • Second-Degree Felony — Up to 20 years in prison and/or fine of up to $10,000.

In addition to the punishments above, the Texas Department of Safety (DPS) will suspend the driver's license of the alleged offender—often before the criminal portion of the case is completed. People who are facing possible driver's license suspensions for BWI only have 15 days to appeal the suspensions.

Some of the many other possible penalties that may be imposed can include probation, community service, required drug or alcohol assessment and treatment, administrative fees, mandatory attendance at a DWI class, mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device (IID), and DPS Driver Responsibility Surcharges of $1,000 to $2,000 per year for three years.


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BWI Resources in Texas

Reserve Marine Division | Harris County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) — The HCSO Marine Division patrols the waterways of Harris County and responds to all drownings, boating accidents, and other water related emergencies in the unincorporated areas of Harris County. Visit this section of the HCSO website to learn more about where Marine Division deputies conduct water patrols. You can also find information about the HCSO Underwater Investigative Dive Unit (the Dive Team), which is part of the Marine Division.

Harris County Sheriff's Office
1200 Baker St.
Houston, TX 77002
(713) 221-6000

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) | Texas Boater Frequently Asked Questions — The mission of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is, "To manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations." On this section of the TPWD website, you can find answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about boater education and operator requirements. You can also use a link to the water safety digest that provides answers to additional FAQs.


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Horak Law | Houston BWI Defense Attorney

Were you arrested for an alleged BWI offense in southeast Texas? Do not make any kind of statement to authorities without legal representation. Contact Horak Law right now.

Houston criminal defense lawyer Matt Horak represents residents and visitors in Montgomery County, Waller County, Fort Bend County, Harris County, Liberty County, Brazoria County, and Galveston County. Call our firm at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009 or fill out an online contact form to have our attorney provide a complete evaluation of your case during a free initial consultation.


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Our Office in The Woodlands
1790 Hughes Landing Blvd #400 The Woodlands, TX 77380 (281) 907-4990
Our Office in Houston
5300 Memorial Dr #750 A Houston, TX 77007 (713) 225-8000
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Matt Horak Matt Horak is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization since 2014