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When Can An Officer Board My Boat To Investigate Me For Boating While Intoxicated?

Yesterday, we blogged about the little discussed offense of boating while intoxicated. Though it is very similar to DWI, there are some slight differences (above and beyond the obvious that the offense occurs on water). The Fourth Amendment of United States Constitution and Article I, Section 9 of the Texas Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. What courts attempt to do when one raises a Fourth Amendment and Article I, Section 9 issue is that they try to balance the intrusion of the individual's constitutional rights against a legitimate governmental interest.
The law in Texas states that a person may stop and board a boat WITHOUT probable cause or reasonable suspicion. Section 31.124 of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code, states that "in order to enforce the provisions of this chapter, an enforcement may stop and board any vessel subject to this chapter and may inspect the boat to determine compliance with applicable provisions." Chapter 31 entitled Water Safety mandates that boats carry a certificate of number, the proper lights, a whistle or bell, life preserves, fire extinguishers, a flame arrestor, ventilators, a muffler, and rearview mirror.
Several years ago, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the validity of this law. Thus, an officer, under the guise of what is in effect an administrative check, can board your boat. Once upon the boat, the officer then must establish that he or she had reasonable suspicion to investigate the driver of the boat for being intoxicated.
If you have been arrested for boating while intoxicated, contact a Plano boating while intoxicated attorney.