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Boating While Intoxicated

Mimi Coffey enjoys a night on the boat.

Boating is a popular activity among many in Texas. Mimi enjoys boating as well.  Boating is unique. Some operators require a license to drive a boat, but on the other hand some people do not.  Yet, you can get a Boating While Intoxicated charge! The marine environment poses many challenges for law enforcement when attempting to analyze and collect evidence of intoxication. Important considerations are balance issues due to “sea legs”, lack of appropriate conditions for performing testing and fundamental flaws with the tests the police use. When you face a BWI charge it can be scary, intimidating, and exhausting. Throughout the process of your case, you will want a caring, knowledgeable, and hard-working team on your side. The Coffey Firm is committed to helping you through this process. Each of our attorneys works hands-on to ensure that you will feel comfortable and made aware of all of your options. Our confidential evaluations are free, all you need to do is call us!

Texas Penal Code 49.06 prohibits Boating While Intoxicated. It is the same as Driving While Intoxicated charge except it is in a watercraft. Watercraft is defined in the Texas Penal Code as “a vessel, one or more water skis, an aquaplane, or another device used for transporting or carrying a person on water, other than a device propelled only by the current of water.” Much like a DWI, you can be charged with a BWI (Boating While Intoxicated), or sometimes called BUI (Boating Under the Influence), for:

  • being impaired by alcohol or drugs so that you can no longer safely operate a vessel.
  • having a breath, blood or urine alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater at the time of operation of the vessel.

Do I need to get a boating license?

According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, in order to drive a boat without a safety course you must be eligible in the following ways:

  • Anyone born on or after September 1, 1993 must take a course, or
  • Any vessel over 15 horsepower,
  • A wind-blown vessel over 14 feet,
  • All personal watercraft (e.g. Jetski)


Texas law established the following penalties for BWI (the same as DWI). Please see below.

First conviction carries a fine of up to $2,000 and/or jail time of up to 180 days.


Second conviction carries a fine of up to $4,000 and/or jail time of up to one year.


Third conviction carries a fine of up to $10,000 and/or jail time of 2–10 years.

In addition, BWIs can be used to enhance DWI offenses.  A person may also be charged with a habitual count (carries 25 years to life in prison) on a felony BWI/DWI with the underlying two prior felony convictions.

Do you need help with your BWI Case?

Mimi Coffey is a nationally-renowned trial attorney, board-certified in DWI by the NCDD, who has been practicing for over 24 years and is an author of multiple DWI Defense textbooks and is a national and state-wide lecturer on the law.

How to Avoid Getting a BWI