Sunday, May 27, 2007

Random Boat Stops

Austin defense lawyer, Ken Gibson, provides summer lake-goers a valuable service discussing the impact of Schenekl v. State upon their recreational activities on area lakes. The issue in Schenekl was whether section 31.124 of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code passed constitutional muster by allowing law enforcement officers to board water craft, without probable cause, to determine whether [the water craft] [was] in compliance with the various provisions of the Code.

In his article "Random Boat Stops and the 4th Amendment" Ken states:
It may be difficult to understand how a random stop, unsupported by probable cause, could be constitutional. The court, in making this determination, applied a two-prong test, weighing the State’s interest in the search against the individual’s right to personal security free from arbitrary interference by law enforcement. The court held that the State has a strong interest in protecting its citizens and promoting water safety through random safety checks. The court decided that, in contrast, the level of intrusion to the individual during a random boat stop is minimal. Thus, while it may seem counter-intuitive, the court held random safety checks of boats to be constitutional and not a violation of the 4th Amendment. This information is certainly important to keep in mind while spending time at the lake this spring and summer.
We could not agree more with Ken's assessment. Random boat stops by law enforcement officers may really be a pretext for BWI (boating while intoxicated) investigations. So be careful. If you must drink while on the lake, do so in moderation and designate a non-drinker to operate the craft. BWI is a Class B misdemeanor offense in Texas carrying a maximum jail sentence of 180 days and maximum fine of $2,000.00 for first time offenses. If you are charged with BWI, contact a qualified Bryan DWI defense attorney to begin an aggressive defense immediately.

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