Boating While Intoxicated with a Child Passenger: Texas Penal Code §49.061

Texas Criminal Law

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The Texas Boating While Intoxicated with a Child Passenger law gives police the right to arrest you if they believe you were intoxicated while operating a watercraft that had a child under 15 years old on it.

This law was passed in the wake of the Alex Murdaugh case, which seems to have partially stemmed from a boating accident involving children. The Texas legislature codified this criminal offense in Texas Penal Code Section 49.061, and it went into effect September 1, 2023.

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This law mirrors both the Driving While Intoxicated With Child Passenger law in that it requries the state to prove both intoxication and a child passenger, as well as the Boating While Intoxicated law at 49.06 in that boating is the regulated operation (instead of driving).

The Penal Code classifies the Texas Boating While Intoxicated with a Child Passenger law under Title 10 “Offenses Against Public Health, Safety, And Morals,” Chapter 49 “Intoxication and Alcoholic Beverage Offenses.” Learn more about the Texas offense of Boating While Intoxicated with a Child Passenger below.

What is the current Texas law about Boating While Intoxicated with a Child Passenger?

The current Texas law defines the offense of Boating While Intoxicated with a Child Passenger in Penal Code Section §49.061 as follows:[1]

(a) A person commits an offense if:

(1) the person is intoxicated while operating a watercraft; and

(2) the watercraft being operated by the person is occupied by a passenger who is younger than 15 years of age.

Boating While Intoxicated with Child Passenger shares several of the same elements as the DWI offense.The element of intoxication is identical, and perhaps the most critical element to this offense. Intoxication carries a specific, technical definition under the law.

The 88th Texas Legislature passed this law in 2023,[2], effective September 1, 2023.[3]

How can I be charged with a Boating While Intoxicated with a Child Passenger offense in Texas?

You can be charged with Boating While Intoxicated With A Child Passenger in Texas if the state’s attorneys believe that each of the elements of 49.061 as described in the section above have been met.

What is the statute of limitation for Boating While Intoxicated with a Child Passenger in Texas?

Boating While Intoxicated with a Child Passenger offenses have a three-year limitations period.[4]

What is the penalty for a Texas Boating While Intoxicated with a Child Passenger offense?

Boating While Intoxicated With A Child Passenger in Texas is punished by default as a state jail felony.[5]

However, the state can also seek a repeat offender enhancement, making the offense a third degree felony, if they can prove you have multiple prior DWI-related convictions or a prior Intoxication Manslaughter conviction.[6]

Can you get probation for Boating While Intoxicated with a Child Passenger in Texas?

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure prohibits judges from accepting deferred adjudication pleas in Boating While Intoxicated with a Child Passenger cases.[7] However, the Code of Criminal Procedure allows both judges and juries to grant probation.[8]

What level of crime is Boating While Intoxicated with a Child Passenger in Texas?

The Penal Code classifies Boating While Intoxicated with a Child Passenger as a state jail felony. Additionally, the state may seek a repeat DWI enhancement to a third degree felony.

Learn more about the penalty range for this offense in the section above.


^1. Texas Penal Code §49.061. This law is current as of the 88th Legislature Regular Session.^2. HB 1163, 88th Texas Legislature, Section 1^3. HB 1163, 88th Texas Legislature, Section 19^4. See Code of Criminal Procedure 12.01(9)^5. Texas Penal Code §49.061(b)^6. Texas Penal Code §49.09^7. Art. 42A.054, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure^8. See Chapter 42, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Art. 42A.056 and Art. 42A.102 .

Boating While Intoxicated with a Child Passenger | Penal Code 49.061 text with Texas and American Flag in background

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