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Facing BWI Charges?
Protect Your Freedom
Before Time Runs Out.

San Antonio BWI Defense Lawyers

Representing Those Arrested for Boating While Intoxicated

In Texas, it is illegal to operate a water vessel while intoxicated just as it is to operate a motor vehicle. If you are found to be doing so, you will be facing a BWI Class B misdemeanor.

The penalties you will face are the same as those for DWI, which include:

  • A first conviction is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and/or jail time up to 180 days
  • A second conviction is punishable by a fine of up to $4,000 and/or jail time up to one year
  • A third conviction is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and/or jail time of 2-10 years.

Furthermore, when it comes to sentencing BWI and DWI, these offenses are classified together. So if you have a previous DWI on your record and are now charged with BWI, you will be facing a second offense, which is a more serious matter.

PLEASE NOTE: YOU ONLY HAVE 15 DAYS from the date of your BWI arrest to request an administrative hearing about the automatic suspension of your driver’s license. After 15 days, you will forfeit your right to make this request. For immediate assistance, call Smith & Vinson Law Firm at (210) 960-9557.

The BWI Stop

In DWI cases, law enforcement acts on what is known as probable cause when pulling you over. They must have reasonable suspicion that you may be intoxicated. After witnessing problematic driving behavior such as tailgating, drifting into other lanes, or swerving, they have grounds to make a DWI stop.

On the water, these behaviors do not apply. You are subject, however, to water safety law and may be detained by the Coast Guard or a Marine Safety Officer to determine if you have complied with these laws. This is called a “water safety check.” In the process of checking your compliance, if evidence is found that indicates the boat operator may be intoxicated, the officer can initiate a BWI investigation.

Intoxication evidence may include:

  • Open containers
  • Empty wine bottles or beer cans
  • Glassy or bloodshot eyes
  • Slurred speech
  • Physical instability
  • Admissions that one has been drinking

Anything that points to intoxication on the part of the boat operator can be used by the Safety Officer to request that the boat operator perform field sobriety tests. Remember, however, that it is your constitutional right to refuse to perform these tests.

BWI Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs)

Should a Safety Officer detain you for suspected BWI, he or she can decide how to conduct the field sobriety tests. A few options are available to the Officer. These consist of tests while on the water vessel called a “seated battery,” SFSTs done ashore, or both sets of tests. Once again, it is important to know that it is within your constitutional rights to refuse all of these tests.

The BWI Seated Battery Test

This series of tests includes the horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN test), the finger-to-nose test, and the palm pat test. The HGN test checks for involuntary eye-jerking movements while moving your gaze from one side to the other. In the finger-to-nose test, your head is tilted back while you touch your finger to your nose. In the palm pat test, you are asked to pat one extended palm with the other palm while rotating the movement 180 degrees. In all of these tests, the Officer will be looking for any sign that you are in an intoxicated state and thus impaired. Even one small error on your part may be used against you to further the investigation or lead to a BWI charge. Successfully performing any one test or part of a test gives you no advantage; only errors count.

SFSTs on a Suspected BWI

During a suspected BWI, you may also be asked to perform roadside field sobriety tests (SFSTs). These are done ashore after a 15-minute break for your body to stabilize on land. It is often difficult to “pass” SFSTs, especially after having been “at sea” for an extended time period.

These tests have been shown to be unreliable. Marine environment studies have demonstrated that the marine setting includes specific stress factors that can reduce one’s ability to pass these tests. Such stressors as heat, water spray, boat motion, and glare compromise the validity of using these SFSTs for valid evidence. Additionally, no scientific data supports a 15-minute break from the water to land as sufficient time to recover from such stress factors. Therefore, you should refuse to take SFSTs during any suspected BWI incident. If you have taken them, you should immediately consult with one our San Antonio BWI defense lawyers.

Obtain Experienced Legal Help from Smith & Vinson Law Firm

A BWI conviction can shatter both your personal and professional life. You need a skilled attorney with a comprehensive understanding of BWI law who can demonstrate the flaws in the prosecutor’s evidence. While a BWI has many similarities to a DWI, it is not identical and the differences may be critical in your case. That is why you need an attorney who is well versed in BWI and its unique legal problems. You will find such attorneys at our firm who are standing by to help you seek a favorable outcome.

Schedule a consultation with a San Antonio BWI defense lawyer today. You can reach us at (210) 960-9557 anytime.

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