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BWI (Boating While Intoxicated)

The two large lakes north and east of Dallas attract millions every year. Boaters on the reservoirs known as Lavon Lake (also called Lake Lavon) and Lake Ray Hubbard (formerly Forney Lake) are often in a partying mood, but illegal use of alcohol while operating a boat may torpedo the fun.

A person who operates a boat or other vessel on the water is subject to the same drinking and driving laws as a person who operates a motor vehicle on dry land. The "water police" keep a sharp eye out for boat operators who may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

A charge of boating while intoxicated (BWI) is just as serious a charge as DWI (driving while intoxicated) and both crimes are punished the same under Chapter 49 the Texas Penal Code, with the potential for imprisonment, heavy fines, and possible loss of a driver's license, as well as other consequences.

Lavon Lake BWI Attorneys

If you were arrested for BWI at Lavon Lake, Lake Ray Hubbard or anywhere else in Collin County, Texas, you should contact a lawyer experienced in boating while intoxicated cases. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy have two decades of experience in BWI cases and we are capable of aggressively defending you and fighting for the most favorable outcome in your BWI case, too.

The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy represents BUI clients throughout Collin County, including the cities of Plano, Garland, McKinney, Frisco, Carrollton, Richardson, Allen, and Wylie, as well as Rockwall and Grayson counties.

Contact The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy at 469-304-3422 today to schedule a free, confidential consultation with one of our attorneys. We will be able to review your case and explain your legal options, so call us now.


Information about BWI at Lavon Lake and in Collin County


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Collin County Boating While Intoxicated Charges

Alcohol-related accidents on the water sparked the Texas Legislature to create the Boating While Intoxicated statute, enacted in 1994.

Under the Texas Penal Code, Title 10, Chapter 49, § 49.06(a), Boating While Intoxicated occurs when a "person is intoxicated while operating a watercraft."

Definitions of Terms Related to BWI

A "watercraft" is defined in § 49.01(4) as any of the following:

  • A vessel
  • One or more water skis
  • An aquaplane
  • Another device used for transporting or carrying a person on water, other than a device propelled only by the current of water

In addition, a person must have "actual physical control" of a watercraft in order to be "operating" the vehicle.

"Intoxicated" is defined under the Texas Penal Code § 49.01(2) as:

  • 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

Under Texas P.C. § 49.01(1), "alcohol concentration" (also known as blood-alcohol concentration or BAC) means the number of grams of alcohol per:

  • 210 liters of breath
  • 100 milliliters of blood, or
  • 67 milliliters of urine

BWI is a Class B misdemeanor, with a minimum term of confinement of 72 hours after arrest required by the statute. A conviction of a Class B misdemeanor offense may result in a sentence of up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000, or both.

Upgraded BWI Charges

BWI may be upgraded to a more serious charge if certain aggravating factors occur.

  • BWI with BAC of 0.15 or More, Texas Penal Code § 49.04(d) — If the operator of a watercraft registers a BAC of 0.15 or higher (sometimes called "extreme DWI"), the charge is upgraded to a Class A misdemeanor.
  • Intoxication Assault, Texas Penal Code § 49.07 — A person commits the offense of Intoxication Assault if he or she, by accident or mistake, while operating a watercraft while intoxicated, by reason of that intoxication causes serious bodily injury to another person. Intoxication Assault is a third-degree felony.
  • Intoxication Manslaughter, Texas Penal Code § 49.08 — A person commits the offense of Intoxication Manslaughter if he or she, by accident or mistake, while operating a watercraft while is intoxicated, by reason of that intoxication causes the death of another person.             

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Texas Penalties for BWI

A conviction for BWI may result in several adverse consequences, both criminal and civil. Criminal penalties will be imposed by a judge or jury, while civil penalties are imposed administratively through the Texas Department of Safety (DPS).

Criminal Penalties

The criminal punishments will depend on an offender's prior criminal history, as well as whether anyone was injured or killed as a result of a BWI incident. The criminal penalties provided for in the statutes include:

  • First BWI Conviction — A Class B Misdemeanor: Up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000
  • Second BWI Conviction — A Class A Misdemeanor: 30 days to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000
  • Conviction for BWI with BAC of 0.15 or More — A Class A Misdemeanor: 30 days to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000
  • Third or Subsequent BWI Conviction — A Third-Class Felony: Up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000
  • Intoxication Assault — A Third-Degree Felony: Up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000
  • Intoxication Manslaughter — A Second-Degree Felony: Up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000

Civil Penalties

A BWI conviction may also result in additional penalties that spill over into an offender's life off the water. A person convicted of BWI may receive a driver's license suspension from DPS, often before the criminal portion of the case is completed. A driver facing a driver's license suspension for BWI has only 15 days to appeal the suspension.

Other penalties may include administrative fees, mandatory attendance at a DWI class, required drug or alcohol assessment and treatment, probation, community service, mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device (IID), and DPS Driver Responsibility Surcharges of $1,000 to $2,000 per year for three years.

BWI Defenses in Collin County

A day on the water affects different people in different ways and the effects of the combination of the sun and water may be disorienting to some people. Although a person may appear to be impaired, the person's symptoms may be due to the environment.

The heat, the wind, or the glare of the sun on the water is sometimes disorienting and may affect a person's performance during field sobriety tests. Red eyes or a flushed face are often considered signs of impairment, but they may be able to be explained by time spent on the water rather than an indicator of intoxication.

The rules of the water do differ in some ways than the rules of the road. For example, probable cause is not required for marine officers to board a vessel for a safety inspection.

As in DWI cases, mistakes are sometimes made or improper procedures are used when alcohol tests are conducted on boat operators. An experienced BWI attorney may be able to find flaws in the tests or other gatherings of evidence that could lead to a reduction or dismissal or charges.


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Additional Resources for BWI in Collin County

Texas Penal Code, Title 10, Chapter 49, Section 49.06 — Boating While Intoxicated — Read the Texas state laws related to Boating While Intoxicated and other statutes that address intoxication-related crimes.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — Lavon Lake — Learn a wealth of information about Lavon Lake on this website from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the lake. Information includes history, maps, directions, recreational opportunities, and locations of boat ramps and marinas, as well as water safety tips.

Lavon Lake and Lake Ray Hubbard — The City of Wylie, situated between Collin County's two large lakes, provides maps, information about camping, fishing and parks at the lakes, and a link to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Wylie Police, with assistance from other local, state and federal agencies, patrol the lakes.

Lavon Lake Office
3375 Skyview Drive 
Wylie, Texas 75098
Phone: 972-442-3141
Fax: 972-442-1109

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD): Texas Boater Frequently Asked Questions — The state parks agency offers boating information on its website with answers to the most frequently asked questions about boater education and operator requirements. A link to the water safety digest provides answers to additional frequently asked questions.


Find a Qualified Lawyer for BWI in Collin County, TX

If you were arrested for BWI at Lavon Lake, Lake Ray Hubbard, or anywhere on the waterways of Collin County, Texas, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to investigate your arrest and fight for the most favorable outcome.

The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy aggressively defends clients in Wylie, Plano, Garland, McKinney, Frisco, Carrollton, Allen and Richardson in Collin County, Texas as well as clients in Rockwall and Grayson counties. Call us at 469-304-3422 right now to schedule a free consultation, where we can review your case and begin developing a strong legal defense.

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