Client was having a peaceful afternoon on the lake with friends. It was beautiful. The boat was safely moored and everyone was having a good time. After a few hours, Game Wardens with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department came by to conduct a water safety inspection. They came up along the port side and seized my client’s vessel. There was no other reason to stop the boat. Legally the police don’t need reasonable suspicion to stop a motor boat that is 16 feet or more in length. They can conduct water safety inspections to make sure the vessel has a certificate number, fire extinguisher, a whistle or working horn, floatation devices, and working lights. If the officer observes signs of intoxication while conducting the safety inspection, there would be reasonable suspicion to briefly detain and investigate for Boating While Intoxicated. Client demonstrated that all of his water safety equipment was working and he passed inspection. Despite all that, he was arrested for Boating While Intoxicated. Additionally, he was facing the potential loss of his driver’s license. He wanted his case dismissed.
The police had no articulable facts to support any drinking at all. The officer asked client how long he had been on the lake and client responded “two hours, mas o menos.” The officer thought it was a little “funny” that client responded that way and that client took a little while to find his boat’s certificate number. Client was walking normally, had no trouble standing, and was stable on his feet.
Client was ordered off his boat and onto the Park’s Police Boat. The officer was within three feet of client and had not detected an odor of alcohol nor did he suspect illegal drug use but the officer wanted to conduct field sobriety tests.
We argued that Defendant was arrested for Boating While Intoxicated without a warrant, probable cause, or lawful authority and was subjected to tests while unlawfully in custody. In particular, we maintained that the arresting officer had no reasonable suspicion to detain or order Defendant off his boat.
Both the Administrative License Revocation Judge and the Trial Court Judge agreed. Client was able to keep his driver’s license and the BWI was dismissed.
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