KRLD Investigation Part 2: Lewisville Lake Has More BWI Arrests Than Any Other Texas Lake Since 2013

L.P. Phillips
August 02, 2018 - 3:50 pm
Lewisville Lake/Denton County game warden Josh Espinoza looks for boating safety problems on Lewisville Lake

L.P. Phillips


LEWISVILLE (KRLD) - It may be easy access or it could be the infamous Party Cove. But Lewisville Lake leads the State of Texas in arrests for boating while intoxicated (BWI).

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says this year alone (through July 10) there have been at least 18 arrests.

Those pile on a running total of 65 BWI arrests since January 1, 2013, impressive considering the vast number of lakes in the biggest warm-weather state in the country. 

BWI and driving while intoxicated (DWI) have the same general criteria and penalties. In Texas, a person with a blood alcohol concentration of at least 0.08 or someone who does not have the use of mental and/or physical faculties can be considered under the influence. The difference, of course, is what is being driven. 

A car or truck on a public road is one thing. But what constitutes a boat?

"A vessel or anything propelled," said Gina Morgan, Denton County Assistant District Attorney, who is in charge of the misdemeanor division. While a motorized boat is a no-brainer for a lawyer, legal arguments can be made for other propelled vessels such as a canoe or kayak. 

"There's even argument being made that someone floating down a tube on the Guadelupe, if they are propelling it with their arms could be considered a boat."

Her staff gets first crack at the BWI cases. They also get second-time offenders. By the time someone is arrested for BWI, the case turns into a felony with possible prison time.

There's a legal-crossover from the water to the land--and vice-versa--that some boaters may not be aware of.

"Boating while intoxicated and driving while intoxicated essentially can be used interchangeably to make a first into a second into a third or consequentially," she said. "So if a person has a DWI and later gets a BWI, that's still going to be a second offense under the law. Even though it's their first BWI, but it's their intoxication-related offense, under that chapter."

It means a Texas driver could lose their license for three drunken boating arrests even if they never touch alcohol on land. 

That's a welcome loophole for family-boaters like Steven Beekman of Grand Prairie. "I did not know that. It's quite interesting," he said. "Doesn't really affect us but it's an interesting factoid."

Like other tee-totler who take the boat on Lewisville Lake, Beekman has seen his share of drunken boaters. And while he tries to avoid them, the drunks sometimes show up, whether he likes it or not. "It's just folks who are not courteous, get a litle bit too close, acting a little crazy with their equipment. Yeah. It's out there."

Read part 1 right here