USA Today published a survey of boaters this morning which showed that the most popular holiday for boating on lakes is the Fourth of July.  If you getting in your boat and heading out onto Canyon Lake, Lake Dunlap, Lake Placid or Lake McQueeney this Fourth of July Weekend, here's a few things to remember in order to stay out of court (or worse):

1.  BOATING WHILE INTOXICATED IN TEXAS IS A SERIOUS OFFENSE:  In Texas, it's illegal to operate any type of watercraft in public place while intoxicated due to the consumption of alcohol, drugs (prescription or otherwise), controlled substance, or any combo. First offense Boating While Intoxicated is a Class B misdemeanor and carries the same range of punishment as a first offense Driving While Intoxicated charge -- a fine of up to $2,000.00, nywhere from 72 hours up to 180 days in county jail, and/or up to 2 years of supervised probation.

2.  YOU CAN BE ARRESTED FOR BOATING WHILE INTOXICATED WHILE OPERATING A JET SKI:  Our Boating While Intoxicated statute in Texas provides that you can get a BWI while operating any kind of a "watercraft" while intoxicated.  "Watercraft" is broadly defined as any type of a vessel that is not designed to be propelled by the current of the water.  If you take the definition of watercraft to it's logical extreme, it's possible, in theory, to get arrested for BWI in a rowboat.  Needless to say, if it's got a motor, and it floats, it qualifies as a watercraft.  We have represented more than one client who was arrested for BWI while jet-skiing.

3.  BOATING WHILE INTOXICATED CAN COST YOU YOUR DRIVER'S LICENSE TO DRIVE A CAR. Under our implied consent statute -- the one where law enforcement offers you a breath test after you get arrested for DWI and then seizes your driver's license when you either fail or refuse  -- BWI is also covered.  So in other words, if you refuse to take, or fail a breath test, after getting arrested for boating while intoxicated, you can lose your license to drive a car.

4.  BOATING CHECKPOINTS ARE LEGAL IN TEXAS -- COPS DON'T NEED REASONABLE SUSPICION OR PROBABLE CAUSE TO STOP YOUR BOAT ON THE WATER:  As I've mentioned several times before on this blog, random law enforcement checkpoints to detain and search people are generally illegal in Texas.  There is at least one huge exception, however.  The Texas Legislature has made it legal for law enforcement to stop watercraft on the water in order to inspect safety equipment.  If you are stopped for a safety inspection, and the cop happens to notice that strong odor of alcohol on your breath or the tipsy look in your eyes, then you could wind up in trouble for more than not have life preservers onboard.

5.  "BUZZING" ISN'T JUST RUDE, IT'S ILLEGAL:  It's illegal to operate a watercraft in a circular path around a swimmer or fisherman, as well as to operate a watercraft in an area marked off exclusively for swimmers or fishermen.  In addition, it's also against law to create a wake behind your watercraft that endangers others on the water.

6.  KNOW THE SPECIAL RULES FOR THE LAKE ON WHICH YOU ARE BOATING:  Many people don't realize that Canyon Lake is administered by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, which can adopt its own regulations for the areas it supervises.  Before getting on the water, make sure you know any special rules that apply to the body of water on which you are boating.

7.  BONUS RULE:  That lake is like a frying pan.  Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 50 or above.  Happy boating.


If you are going through the criminal justice system, you should learn some of the lingo. Some words and phrases for the day: CATCH A CHAIN: Getting transported to prison. PAPER READY: A defendant's felony case is completed, and he is ready to be transported to prison. GETTING PSYCHED: For most of the world, getting excited, enthused, or mentally prepared. In the criminal justice system, submitting to a psychological evaluation to determine if you are mentally competent to stand trial.

TWO BRAIN CELLS SHY OF A COMPETENCY HEARING: Crazy. Okay, this one's not common, but I heard it recently and liked it. ROCKET DOCKET: In some counties, a regularly-scheduled court docket on which a court tries to cram an unusually large number of cases through the system in a single day. In other counties, a case calendar that make cases go from zero to jury trial setting in under sixty seconds. RESET: Normal people reschedule. Criminal lawyers reset. WARRANT ROUND-UP. The Sheriff and County Attorney are up for reelection, so it's time to arrest a few truckloads full of people on ten year old Class C misdemeanors.


Today marks the first day of the Comal County Courts-at-Law holding separate dockets.  For several years now, both Comal County Court-at-Law No. 1 & No. 2 have run all Class A and B misdemeanors in the county though the system on the same joint court docket.  The joint docket, which local lawyers referred to as the "Rocket Docket" or the "Monster Docket", depending on your preference, featured a non-jury docket every other Wednesday in which the courts sometimes attempted the Herculean feat of processing 300-400 cases in a single day.  At one point, the Wednesday joint docket was so large that it was essentially parred down by order of the local fire marshall, based upon there being too many people crowded into the old courthouse at a single time. 

This docket was supposed to promote efficiency and move cases, but was so large that it was almost impossible to get anything done, and actually bogged down the system.  In addition, you typically had two judges presiding over the same docket who, not only had once run against each other for elective office, but often did not see eye-to-eye on what was an appropriate punishment in some types of cases.  As a result, defendants charged with the same type of offense might get different punishments during the same docket, depending on which courtroom a clerk sent a case file. 

Needless to say, this made it a little more difficult than usually for both defense lawyers and prosecutors to play the game of "What is Dummy Thinking" very effectively. A couple of months ago, the judges presiding over the joint docket, Charles Stephens and Randy Gray, decided to split the sheets.  Cases with odd numbers will be assigned to Judge Gray, those with evens to Judge Stephens (evens, Stephens -- get it?)  Hopefully, this will keep people from being tied up all day at huge dockets where very little gets accomplished and provide for some more consistency.  Whether the DA's office starts gaming the system to make sure that certain types of cases get odd numbers and some get evens remains to be seen.