Texas Boating While Intoxicated Laws

Section 49.06 of the Texas Penal Code tells us that operating a watercraft “while intoxicated” is illegal. This is known as a “BWI” or “Boating While Intoxicated.”

What does“intoxicated” mean?

The first question is, what does it mean to be “intoxicated” under Texas Law?

Section 49.01(2)(A)-(B) tells us that intoxicated means the person has a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more.

A great deal of Texans can tell you what the legal BAC limit is. However, many do not realize that intoxicated can also mean something else entirely.

Legal Meaning of Intoxication

The statute also tells us you are “intoxicated” if you do not have control of your mental or physical faculties because of alcohol or another substance, regardless of your BAC.

Definition of a “watercraft”


The next question to answer is, what constitutes a watercraft? Texas Penal Code 49.01(4) says a “watercraft” is a vessel, water skis, or an aquaplane.

However, a watercraft is also any other device used for transporting or carrying people over water, so long as the device is propelled by something other than simply the water’s current.

Texas BWI Penalties

49.06(b) tells us that a first offense for a BWI is a Class B misdemeanor.

1st Offense BWI Fine

A first-time conviction can result in a fine up to $2,000 and jail time up to 180 days.

1st Offense BWI Jail Time

The statute also tells us that, if convicted, a person must spend a minimum of at least 3 days in jail.

2nd Offense BWI Penalties

A second offense, however, is a Class A misdemeanor, punished by up to a fine up to $4,000 and potentially up to a year in prison.

If convicted of a second BWI offense, the offender must spend a minimum of 30 days in jail.

3rd Boating While Intoxication Conviction

Worse still, a third conviction is no longer a misdemeanor but now a Third-Degree felony. Punishment for a third offense is a fine up to $10,000 and 2-10 years in jail.

Higher Penalties for BWI With Injury

The punishments are even stricter for each class if you cause the injury of a first responder or cause the death of another individual.