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Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) Defense Attorney

Boating while intoxicated (BWI) is a serious offense.  The penalties can greatly affect your life.  If you’re dealing with a BWI offense, you need to hire a skilled Texas DWI Defense Attorney.  The Westbrook Law Firm can help.

Our Experienced Legal Team Can Help

Throughout the last decade, Mr. Westbrook has earned the title of one of “Houston’s Top Lawyers” by Houstonia Magazine and H Texas Magazine, reflecting his commitment to excellence in legal practice.  With a “Superb” rating of 10 out of 10 on AVVO.com, over 100 5-Star reviews from current and former clients on AVVO and Google, and an A+ Rating from the Better Business Bureau, Mr. Westbrook’s accolades speak volumes about his dedication to his clients’ success.

Understanding the Basic Laws on BWI Charges in Texas

In Texas, the laws surrounding BWI are designed to maintain safety on the water, much like Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) laws, which are intended to keep roads safe.

Under the Texas Penal Code Section 49.06, a person commits a BWI offense when they operate a watercraft under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Being charged with BWI is not a light matter. The offense is initially classified as a Class B misdemeanor.  This classification carries with it serious potential consequences, including a mandatory minimum confinement period of 72 hours.

The definition of “operating” in this context is broad, including the act of navigating or physically controlling the movement of a watercraft.  Similarly, “watercraft” is not limited to motorboats but includes any device used for transporting or carrying people on the water, excluding devices propelled only by the current.

When Do Penalties for a BWI Crime Become More Severe in Texas?

In Texas, the consequences for a BWI offense can escalate under certain conditions, as outlined in Texas Penal Code Section 49.09.  This section of the law introduces the concept of enhanced offenses and penalties, meaning that if you have previous convictions for similar offenses, the penalties for a current BWI charge can become substantially more severe.

Prior Convictions and Their Consequences

When an individual has been previously convicted of an offense related to operating a motor vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, or even an amusement ride while under the influence, a subsequent BWI charge is elevated to a Class A misdemeanor.  This elevation carries a minimum term of confinement of 30 days, indicating a stricter penalty due to the prior offense.

If an individual has one previous conviction under Section 49.08 (intoxication manslaughter) or two prior convictions for any related offense, the current charge escalates to a third-degree felony.  This increase reflects the legal system’s intent to impose harsher penalties on repeat offenders, aiming to deter future violations.

Escalation to More Serious Felonies

Under specific circumstances, a BWI offense can be classified as a second-degree or even a first-degree felony.  If the offense resulted in serious bodily injury to a firefighter or emergency medical personnel or caused a traumatic brain injury that led to a persistent vegetative state, it is considered a second-degree felony.  This classification applies to injuries that create a substantial risk of death or that cause permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.

Furthermore, if the BWI offense caused serious bodily injury to a peace officer or a judge while they were performing their official duties or if it resulted in the death of any such personnel, the charge is elevated to a first-degree felony.  This is the most severe classification, reflecting the grave consequences of the offense.

Considerations for Probated Sentences and Repeat Offenses

For enhancement purposes, a conviction includes cases where an individual was placed on deferred adjudication community supervision.  This means that even if the sentence was suspended, it is still considered a prior conviction that can enhance the penalty for a current BWI offense.

Additionally, if an individual commits a subsequent offense related to operating a vehicle while under the influence within a five-year period, they may be required to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle.  This device prevents the vehicle from operating if alcohol is detected in the operator’s breath. Failure to comply with this requirement can lead to contempt charges.

Are There Any Defenses Against BWI Charges?

Yes.  Here are some potential defenses that could be utilized in such cases:

Challenging the Basis for the Stop

One of the primary defenses in a BWI case involves questioning the legality of the initial stop.  In Texas, law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion to believe an offense is being committed to legally stop a boat.  If it can be shown that the stop was not justified, then any evidence collected during the stop, including sobriety test results and officer observations, may be deemed inadmissible in court.

Questioning the Accuracy of Sobriety Tests

Sobriety tests, especially those conducted on water, can be highly unreliable.  Factors such as the boat’s natural movement, weather conditions, and the suspect’s physical conditions can all affect the results of field sobriety tests. A defense can be built around the idea that these tests were not administered properly or that their results were inaccurately interpreted due to these external factors.

Challenging Chemical Test Results

The accuracy of breathalyzer tests or other chemical tests for alcohol content is another avenue for defense. Issues with how the testing device was calibrated, maintained, or operated can impact the reliability of the test results. If the device was not properly calibrated or the test was not administered following strict procedures, the results might be contested.

Involuntary Intoxication

In rare cases, involuntary intoxication can be a defense. It applies when someone gets intoxicated unknowingly, like from a spiked drink.  Proving this defense needs solid evidence that the intoxication wasn’t intentional.

Every BWI case has unique aspects. To handle these defenses well, you need a skilled lawyer.  At the Westbrook Law Firm, PLLC, we assess all of the State’s evidence, choose the best defense, and advocate strongly on your behalf.  If you’re charged with BWI, consulting with us is the best way to protect your rights and find defense options.

Common Questions About Boating While Intoxicated

Here are some FAQs to clarify your concerns about BWI charges in Texas.

What Does It Mean to Be “Intoxicated” Under BWI Law?

In Texas, being “intoxicated” means that you’ve lost the normal use of your mental or physical faculties due to consuming alcohol, drugs, or a combination of substances.  Alternatively, you’re also considered intoxicated if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher.

Which Watercraft Are Covered by BWI Laws?

BWI laws cover any device used for transportation on water, regardless of its size or type.  This includes everything from larger vessels like yachts to smaller crafts such as canoes and paddleboards.

Is BWI Taken as Seriously as DWI?

Absolutely. The state of Texas treats BWI with the same level of seriousness as DWI. The penalties for both offenses can include:

  • Fines
  • Suspension of your driver’s or boating license
  • Potential jail time

Can I Decline a Sobriety Test on Water?

While you have the right to refuse a sobriety test during a BWI stop, doing so will lead to the automatic suspension of your boating privileges.

How Do Previous BWI or DWI Convictions Affect My Current Case?

If you have prior convictions for BWI, DWI, or similar offenses, they can escalate the severity of the penalties you’re facing.  A history of such convictions might elevate a current charge to a Class A misdemeanor or even a felony.

What Are the Consequences If I Injure or Kill Someone While Boating Intoxicated?

Causing serious injury or death while operating a watercraft under the influence can lead to severe felony charges. The specific degree of the felony can vary based on the victim’s role, such as whether they are a public servant like a firefighter or a peace officer and the nature of the injuries inflicted.

Do Out-of-State Convictions Influence My Case in Texas?

Texas law considers previous out-of-state convictions for operating a vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, or amusement ride while intoxicated when determining the penalties for a current BWI offense. These convictions can enhance the charges and penalties you face in Texas.

What Sets Us Apart

At the Westbrook Law Firm, PLLC, our unique approach to legal defense sets us apart from other law firms:

  • Personalized Attention: You will meet with Mr. Westbrook throughout each stage of your case.
  • Clear Communication: We explain the legal process in terms you can understand.
  • Flexible Scheduling: We accommodate your schedule. We offer meetings before or after work and on Saturdays.
  • Competitive Pricing: Quality legal services at affordable rates, ensuring access to top-tier legal representation.

Call a Houston Boating While Intoxicated Attorney Today

Facing a boating while intoxicated charge in Texas?  With Nicholas R. Westbrook, you have a skilled advocate. Don’t face your charges alone.  Call the Westbrook Law Firm at 281-888-5581 today.  We provide a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case and best options going forward.  Remember, experience counts in defending your freedom and future.