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Facing a boating while intoxicated charge in Texas? The seasoned criminal defense attorneys at Cofer & Connelly, PLLC, leverage their vast courtroom experience and deep understanding of the law to ensure your rights are protected. Don’t let a charge steer your life off course. Contact a BWI lawyer today at (512) 991-0576 or online to start your defense. Together, we can chart the right course for your BWI case.
In the state of Texas, laws concerning boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs are strictly enforced. These offenses, often referred to as Boating While Intoxicated (BWI), are treated similarly to driving a motor vehicle while under the influence. We'll examine these laws, what they entail, and their implications.
Understanding The Basic Law
The Texas Penal Code Section 49.06 outlines the basic law concerning BWI charges. In simple terms, you commit a BWI offense if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs while operating a watercraft. This is initially classified as a Class B misdemeanor, which usually includes a minimum of 72 hours of confinement.
When Penalties Get More Severe: Enhanced Offenses And Penalties
The penalties for a BWI crime can increase under certain circumstances as described in Texas Penal Code Section 49.09. This code section introduces the concept of enhanced offenses and penalties. In other words, if you've been convicted of similar offenses in the past, the penalty for current BWI charges can become significantly harsher.
Prior Convictions And Consequences
If a person has been convicted once of an offense related to operating a motor vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, or even an amusement ride while under the influence, their BWI charge becomes a Class A misdemeanor. This brings with it a minimum term of confinement of 30 days.
Furthermore, if a person has been previously convicted once of a specific offense under Section 49.08 or twice for any offense related to operating any vehicle or amusement ride while intoxicated, the current offense becomes a felony of the third degree.
When A Felony Becomes More Serious
There are also instances where the BWI offense could become a second-degree or first-degree felony. If the individual caused serious bodily injury to a firefighter, emergency medical services personnel, or caused a traumatic brain injury resulting in a persistent vegetative state, the offense is classified as a second-degree felony.
On the other hand, if the individual caused serious bodily injury to a peace officer or a judge while they were performing their official duties, or if they caused the death of the aforementioned personnel, the offense escalates to a first-degree felony.
Probated Sentences And Repeat Offenses
For enhancement purposes, it's essential to know that a conviction includes situations where the person was placed on deferred adjudication community supervision. This means that even if a person's sentence was suspended, it is still considered a prior conviction that can enhance the penalty for a current offense.
If a person is found guilty of a subsequent or second offense concerning operating a vehicle while under the influence within 5 years, they could be required to install a device in their vehicle that prevents operation if alcohol is detected in the operator's breath. Non-compliance with this order is punishable by contempt.
Challenging The Basis For The Stop
The first line of defense often involves questioning the legality of the stop. In Texas, law enforcement officials must have a reasonable suspicion that an offense is being committed to stop a boat. If you can demonstrate that the stop was not justified, any evidence gathered during the stop may be suppressed.
Questioning The Accuracy Of Sobriety Tests
Sobriety tests used on the water can be unreliable due to the boat's rocking motion and other environmental factors. A strong defense can challenge the validity of field sobriety tests, especially if there was an improper administration or interpretation of the results.
Challenging Chemical Test Results
If you were given a breathalyzer or other chemical tests, there could be several defenses based on the accuracy of these devices. For example, the device may not have been properly calibrated or maintained, or the person administering the test may not have followed proper procedures.
In very rare circumstances, involuntary intoxication may be used as a defense. This happens when a person becomes intoxicated through no fault of their own. For example, if someone spiked your drink without your knowledge, this could be considered involuntary intoxication.
While these defenses can be effective, they require thorough understanding and careful application of the law. Engaging a skilled attorney who is experienced in handling BWI cases is crucial in putting forth the best defense based on the specifics of your case. Legal advice should be sought from BWI lawyers based on individual circumstances.
Frequently Asked Questions About Boating While Intoxicated
What Exactly Qualifies As Being "Intoxicated" Under This Law?
In Texas, you're legally considered "intoxicated" if you don't have the normal use of your mental or physical faculties due to alcohol or other substances. Alternatively, you're intoxicated if you have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more.
What Type Of Watercraft Does This Law Apply To?
This law applies to any vessel or other craft that can be used for transportation on water. That could be anything from a large ship to a small canoe.
Is Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) As Serious As Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)?
Yes, the penalties for BWI are similar to DWI in Texas. Both offenses can lead to significant fines, loss of your driver's license, and possible jail time.
Can I Refuse A Sobriety Test If I'm Stopped On The Water?
Yes, you can refuse a sobriety test, but this will result in an automatic suspension of your boating license, similar to how it would with a driver's license on land.
What If I've Previously Been Convicted Of A BWI Or DWI?
Previous convictions can enhance the penalties you face. For example, if you have one prior conviction related to operating a vehicle while intoxicated, the current offense could be upgraded to a Class A misdemeanor or worse.
What Happens If I Cause Injury Or Death While Boating Intoxicated?
Causing serious injury or death while boating intoxicated can lead to felony charges. Depending on the circumstances and the victims involved (for instance, a firefighter, peace officer, or judge), you could face second or first-degree felony charges.
How Can I Defend Myself Against A BWI Charge?
Potential defenses can range from questioning the initial stop, challenging sobriety or chemical test results, proving you were not in actual physical control of the watercraft, or demonstrating that any impairment was due to a medical condition or prescription drugs. Legal advice from BWI attorneys should be sought for your specific situation.
Can Previous Convictions In Another State Affect My Case In Texas?
Yes, prior convictions in other states that prohibit the operation of a motor vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, or amusement ride while intoxicated can be used to enhance the penalties for a current offense in Texas.
Texas BUI Lawyer
Charged with boating while intoxicated in Texas? You are not alone. We at Cofer & Connelly, PLLC, have more than 60 years of combined experience and have handled over 25,000 cases, with successful outcomes in more than 370 jury trials. Our criminal defense attorneys have stood on both sides of the courtroom as prosecutors and judges, understanding the intricacies of the justice system. We are prepared to guide you through your defense. Reach us at (512) 991-0576 or online. Let's turn the tide in your favor.
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