Every summer, Texans from all over our state flock to bodies of water to spend time with their friends and families on boats. It’s a popular way to relax, and many enjoy a few alcoholic drinks while boating. While it is legal for passengers on boats to consume alcohol, it is illegal for the boat’s driver to be above the legal limit of a blood alcohol content of .08%. Problems arise if the boat’s driver drinks too much or if a passenger who has been drinking takes the wheel.
Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) is a crime that law enforcement and prosecutors in Texas take very seriously. Depending on the circumstances, punishments can range anywhere from heavy fines to jail time. Fortunately, an arrest never guarantees a conviction, and an experienced BWI lawyer will know the best way to get your charge reduced or dropped entirely.
RJ Harber is a highly skilled Dallas BWI lawyer with over a decade of experience representing those accused of crimes in Texas. Before starting his own criminal defense firm, he was a prosecutor. With this specific experience under his belt, Attorney Harber knows how the system works from both sides, putting him in an ideal position to defend you. He has been recognized as a Top 40 Under 40 National Trial Lawyer and has a perfect 10/10 Avvo rating.
RJ Harber understands that you want to have an understanding of your legal options before hiring a lawyer. That’s why he offers a 100% free consultation, so you can tell him about your situation and he can give you an idea of the path ahead of you before making any financial commitment. Give us a call today at (214) 389-1189 to schedule your free consultation.
Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) in Texas
Texas law defines BWI as being intoxicated while operating a watercraft. Intoxication is defined as a blood alcohol concentration of above .08%, and a watercraft is any vessel used for transporting a person on the water.
Law enforcement officers are legally able to make random checks on watercraft to ensure that they are following safety requirements. Usually, this means they will check that there are adequate life vests, fire extinguishers, emergency horns, etc. If an officer sees or smells alcohol or notices behavior that indicates intoxication, they may conduct a breathalyzer examination or other tests to determine intoxication.
In cases when an individual is operating a vehicle on land, a common defense is that the officer did not have reason to pull over the vehicle in the first place, rendering any search illegal. This kind of defense usually will not work in a BWI, because law enforcement is legally permitted to randomly stop a watercraft; no justification is necessary.
How do I defend myself against a BWI charge?
If you have been charged with BWI, you are likely feeling stressed and unsure of what to do next. Fortunately, although BWI is a serious charge, remember that a charge/arrest does not mean you are guilty or will be convicted. In criminal trials, the prosecutor has a very high burden of proof. They need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were boating while intoxicated, which is the highest burden of proof in our legal system.
There are many BWI defense options, and an experienced BWI lawyer will work with you to develop your best strategy. Below are some common BWI defenses.
- You have a medical condition that caused a breathalyzer exam to deliver a false positive. This means that the breathalyzer showed you had a blood alcohol content over .08% when you either had not been drinking alcohol or you had only consumed a small amount of alcohol. For example, a condition like acid reflux has been demonstrated to result in a false positive on a breathalyzer exam. In situations like these, producing medical documents proving you have a history of such a condition can be helpful, as can hiring an expert witness to testify that medical conditions can result in a false positive on breathalyzer exams.
- The breathalyzer device was defective or malfunctioning. Breathalyzers aren’t perfect — they have been known to give false results if they have not been properly maintained or if used improperly by a police officer. In this case, we will likely have a witness who is a breathalyzer expert testify about why they believe the breathalyzer used on you was not functioning correctly.
- You weren’t driving the boat. Remember, it is perfectly legal to be intoxicated while on a boat as a passenger. However, law enforcement may believe that they saw you driving the boat when you were in fact only a passenger. In this case, eyewitness testimony can help establish that you were not driving the watercraft.
These are just some of the defenses used against DWI charges, there are many more options. If you don’t think any of these defenses apply to you, don’t worry. Our defense strategy for your case will depend on the unique circumstances of your BWI.
Frequently Asked Questions
These are some of our most frequently asked questions. If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at (214) 389-1189.
What is a misdemeanor BWI charge?
If this is the first time you have been charged with a BWI (or DWI), and you did not get in an accident that caused injury or death to anyone, you may be charged with a misdemeanor BWI. This is still a serious charge, but the penalties are less severe than a felony BWI. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor BWI, you can be fined up to $2,000, be sentenced to 72 hours to 180 days in jail, and have your driver’s license suspended for 6 months to a year.
What is a felony BWI charge?
A felony BWI conviction carries more severe penalties than a misdemeanor. There are multiple factors that can cause a prosecutor to charge you with a felony BWI rather than a misdemeanor. These factors include causing serious injury or death to another person, or if this BWI is not your first driving-while-intoxicated offense. Felony BWI penalties range from 2 to 20 years in prison, fines of up to $10,000, and driver’s license suspension.
When should I contact an attorney?
If you’ve been arrested and charged with a crime like BWI, it is crucial to hire an attorney to represent you right away. Too many people make the mistake of waiting until it is too late to hire a qualified lawyer to defend them, and they often end up dealing with the most severe consequences the state can levy against them.
An attorney will review your case, advise you of your legal options, and will work to build a strong defense on your behalf right away. Don’t delay in getting the legal assistance you need.
BWI charges are serious, but with an experienced, high-quality BWI lawyer, you could get your charges reduced or dropped. RJ Harber is passionate about working hard for his clients and will employ every legal tool available in your defense. Give us a call today at (214) 389-1189 to schedule your free consultation.