What Tests are Used to Prove a Boater is Drunk?

Standardized tests that can be performed while you are seated help Austin marine patrol officers determine if a boater is under the influence.

Summer is here and it is the time of year when boating enthusiasts enjoy parties and spending relaxing days out on the water. Marine patrol officers are on high alert during this time, as well, particularly for boaters who overindulge in alcohol. As experienced Austin criminal defense attorneys, we represent clients arrested for boating while intoxicated (BWI). These are serious criminal charges that carry heavy penalties. The following are some of the tests officers use when they suspect a boater is drunk or under the influence in any capacity.

Challenges in BWI Testing

Under Section 49.06 of the Texas Penal Code, boating while intoxicated carries the same types of penalties as a DWI. If your blood alcohol content (BAC) level is 0.08 or greater, you could be facing a fine of up to $2,000, mandatory 72 hours in jail, and the suspension of your driving privileges. If you have any previous BWI or DWI convictions or if you are involved in a boating accident, these penalties increase significantly.

If marine patrol pulls you over for suspected BWI, the first thing they are likely to do is administer a field sobriety test. In theory, this is similar to conducting roadside testing. However, you may be pulled over far from land or a marina, which means the test has to be administered on the patrol officer’s boat. It is also likely that after a day on the water, you may suffer from sea legs. This makes it difficult for marine patrol officers to administer the same tests as they would with a DWI. Tasks such as walking a straight line or standing on one foot are challenging to perform on a boat, even if you have not been drinking.

Seated Sobriety Testing for Boaters

To overcome the above issues, boating officials rely on tests that can be performed while seated. The Texas District and County Attorneys Association (TDCAA) advises that these include:

● Horizontal Nystagmus Test (HGN), when an officer has you follow his or her finger with your eyes as it moves from right to left.

● Finger to nose test, which checks vision and coordination.

● Palm test, which requires you to hold your hands outright, patting them together hand to palm and counting as you go.

● Hand coordination, which involves a series of tasks such as clapping out complex patterns, which you are instructed to perform by the marine patrol officer.

If you fail these tests or the officer has other reasons to suspect you are intoxicated, he or she can require you to submit to breath or blood alcohol testing.

Get Help From Our Austin BWI Attorneys

A BWI is a serious matter that can have long ranging impacts on your life. At Granger and Mueller PC, we provide aggressive legal representation to help prevent a conviction. To discuss your case, contact our Travis County BWI defense attorneys and request a consultation today.

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