In Texas, you can be arrested for Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) if you are “intoxicated while operating a watercraft.” The definition of watercraft includes water skis, jet-skis, aquaplanes, and any other “device used for transporting or carrying a person on water, other than a device propelled only by the current of the water.”
A first-time BWI is a class B misdemeanor, which carries a penalty range of up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. A second BWI is a class A misdemeanor, with a penalty range of up to 365 days in jail and a fine of up to $4,000. A third BWI is a third-degree felony, with a penalty range of two to ten years in prison and a fine up to $10,000. Your drivers license can also be suspended if you are arrested for BWI.
You can be stopped for any number of reasons while boating, including a “safety-check” to make sure that there are enough life jackets on board. At this point, if the officer reasonably suspects you are operating the watercraft while intoxicated, s/he may return you to land to begin field sobriety tests. The officer must wait for a period of time to allow you to regain your equilibrium and lose your “sea-legs” before beginning testing. However, s/he may perform tests that do not require you to use your physical faculties, such as the alphabet test, before returning you to land.
You are not required to submit to testing of any sort. Remember that a number of factors can complicate your performance on field sobriety testing- if you have been on the water on a sunny day, you will probably have red eyes, a wobbly gait, and lightheadedness from dehydration, all of which could be mistaken for intoxication.
If you find yourself in this situation, contact us immediately, so we can help protect your rights.