Texas has more square miles of inland water than any other state and more than 620,000 boats registered to travel Texas waters. While most people are at least somewhat familiar with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), many are not familiar with Boating While Intoxicated (BWI).
Although the two offenses are similar, the Texas Penal Code distinguishes between “driving while intoxicated” (DWI) and “boating while intoxicated” (BWI). The Texas Penal Code provides that a person commits the offense of “driving while intoxicated” when he or she operates a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated.
The offense of “boating while intoxicated” occurs when a person operates a watercraft while intoxicated. Both offenses are Class B misdemeanors and require a minimum confinement term of 72 hours. In addition, for the commission of both DWI and BWI, the “operator” of the vehicle must have been proven intoxicated. Police generally administer many of the same tests in attempting to detect whether a BWI or DWI violation has occurred. These may include field sobriety and blood alcohol level tests.
To commit BWI, a person must operate a watercraft while intoxicated. “Intoxicated” means either “not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; or having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.”
One thing is clear, a person being investigated for DWI or BWI needs to know their rights, and if arrested for BWI, they need an attorney that understands BWI. I am such a lawyer.
The Texas Open Container Law, which makes it illegal to have an open container of alcohol in a car on a public roadway, does not apply to boats. Therefore, it is not illegal to have an open container of alcohol on a boat in Texas.