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Potential penalties when charged with boating while intoxicated?

On a hot Texas summer day, people are focused on staying cool and having a good time with their family. That's why so many head to local lakes or rivers to enjoy a day on the water. With leisure time comes the occasional beer, wine or mixed-drink. However, did you know that those operating a boat or other watercraft can be charged with boating while intoxicated?

Boating while intoxicated is a charge some may face when authorities discover that the driver of a boat or similar watercraft is operating motorized watercraft under the influence of alcohol. Same rules apply to boating under the influence as do motor vehicle drivers who are suspected of driving while intoxicated. That is, the same BAC levels apply, in that those operating a boat or similar watercraft cannot be intoxicated above Texas' legal limit. The coast guard or other similar agency can flag a boater down and even administer a sobriety test if he or she has probable cause.

Probable cause is similar in DWI stops as in BUI stops, for instance if the authority notices open containers or an inability of the boater to control the watercraft or maintain speed, for instance. Recent statistics involving boater injuries and fatalities leads back to boating while intoxicated as over half of all boating fatalities involve drugs or alcohol. There has been a crack-down in recent years on boaters who are suspected of boating while intoxicated. Legal penalties are similar to DWI and can range from civil fines and the loss of boating license, to jail time in criminal cases for causing a death while boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

This is why those accused of BUI needs to take the charge seriously. That means one charged with BUI should not discard the charge as nothing to worry about. Being charged with boating while intoxicated can impact one's life just as much as DWI could. Due process must be followed by law enforcement in the processing and handling of the accused just as those accused of DWI would be treated.

Source:, "Boating Under the Influence Basics," Accessed June 19, 2017

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