Boating, Drinking, and Guns: What is the Law in Texas

Summer is here and many people are spending their time out on the water. Before heading out for your fun in the sun, watch Independent Program Attorney Emily Taylor explain the law in Texas for drinking and boating, and what could happen if you add a gun to the equation.

Going boating is always a fun past time, especially during the hot Texas summer. But nothing can ruin your trip faster than getting arrested for the simple suspicion of boating while intoxicated.

A common question we get is, “can a Game Warden just come onto my boat to see if I am drinking?” Well legally, no; but there are a thousand ways they get around it.

For instance, think about a safety inspection. What kind of safety equipment might they want to inspect?

It could be something common like the number of life jackets onboard, but it could be anything: a fire extinguisher, navigation lights, a throwable floatation device, or a rearview mirror.

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The important issue here is that once a Game Warden is onboard, anything else they observe can lead to further investigation. If a Game Warden decides to come on your boat for a safety check, and then he smells alcohol on your breath… you may be facing field sobriety tests or detainment on the suspicion of boating while intoxicated.

Does this mean that you can’t legally drink at all while boating? While experienced boaters may agree that drinking any alcohol while boating is a bad idea, the law simply states that you cannot be intoxicated.

Texas law defines “intoxicated” in three different ways: 1) the loss of the normal use of your mental faculties; 2) loss of the normal use of your physical faculties; or 3) a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher.

If a game warden suspects you of boating while intoxicated, they will likely start their investigation with a series of tests referred to as the Standardized Field Sobriety tests or SFSTs.

These tests assist the officer in evaluating whether or not you are intoxicated and these tests will be used against you!

We’ve all heard of the “walk the line test,” however, there are a separate set of tests that are performed while on a boat. It is a common myth that you must perform the tests. The truth is, these tests are voluntary, and you do have the right to refuse them.

A game warden can also ask you for a breath specimen. This test is also voluntary. However, failure to blow could cause your driver’s license to be suspended.

What if you have a firearm in your possession on the boat?

In addition to boating while intoxicated, LTC holders can also be charged with unlawful carrying of a weapon if they’re carrying their handgun. And just because you don’t have an LTC doesn’t mean you are off the hook; a non-license holder can also be charged with unlawful carrying of a weapon.

We hope you have a safe and fun summer! If you have any questions about boating with firearms on board, please call Texas LawShield to speak with an independent program attorney.

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Comment section

8 comments on “Boating, Drinking, and Guns: What is the Law in Texas

  1. This is a bit off. Texas law for fishing allows you to open carry. If you have a fishing pole on the boat you can open carry a hand gun.

    b) Section 46.02 does not apply to a person who:

    (1) is in the actual discharge of official duties as a member of the armed forces or state military forces as defined by Section 437.001, Government Code, or as a guard employed by a penal institution;

    (2) is traveling;

    (3) is engaging in lawful hunting, fishing, or other sporting activity on the immediate premises where the activity is conducted, or is en route between the premises and the actor’s residence, motor vehicle, or watercraft, if the weapon is a type commonly used in the activity;

  2. It is not clear in this article if you can bring your gun on the boat if there is not any drinking going on.

    What if there is no alcohol on the boat?

    What if there are some on the boat drinking alcohol but the LTC holder is not drinking?

  3. Does this mean that it is always against the law to carry a weapon on a boat in Texas? If not, what circumstances must be present to be charged with the unlawful carrying of a weapon if you have a LTC?

  4. For a non-LTC holder, is a personal boat treated the same as a vehicle? For instance, in Texas if you do not have an LTC you may still carry in your vehicle as it is considered an extension of your home. I had never given it any thought as I have my LTC, but had a customer ask me this question the other day.

  5. The whole issue of boating with a firearm was not clearly addressed,…

  6. Agreed….Ms Taylor’s next-to-last comment is a bit ambiguous. “…if they are carrying their handgun.” I think we all (LTC holders) understand the while intoxicated part of the law. But the statement leaves me hanging, about whether one can “carry” while boating. tnx ~ jerry

  7. Whether or not you can carry on a boat is irrelevant. You can legally carry on a boat BTW. The point is that you cannot carry while intoxicated. If you are on a boat it can be made far worse if you are in possession of a firearm AND you are intoxicated.

  8. I have taken the CCH course and, later, the LTC course in Texas from a different instructor. In both classes, the the instructor was adamant that licensed person can never possess a firearm if they have any alcohol whatsoever in their system. I find the law to be unclear. Is it illegal to possess a handgun with any alcohol at all, or simply illegal if intoxicated. Finally, what is the definition of, “intoxicated?”

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