HOUSTON (KIAH) – As we head into the summer holidays, the Houston Police Department informs our community of the new laws for boaters.

The Houston Police Department (HPD) will be out on the water for Memorial Day weekend patrolling the lake. Law enforcement says the main concern is boating while intoxicated. It’s illegal, it can be deadly and put other people around you at risk.

Houston Police Department’s Marine Unit says that based on the Water Safety Act, officers can stop boats for any reason. The purpose is to check for safety protocols.

Officials encourage people to educate themselves on the rules and regulations for boating prior to getting out on the water.

If there’s an emergency and you have no way to contact law enforcement, officers suggest ensuring everyone is safe and has a life jacket on before flagging down another boat for help.

Officers say crews will be on Lake Houston all weekend.

“If they can board your vessel allow them to board your vessel. We don’t recommend you go into the water to get anybody. Allow us to do that,” said Alfonso Garcia, a HPD officer with the Lake Patrol Marine Unit.

The main thing HPD wants to emphasize is wearing a life jacket. Every rider must have a life jacket on the boat. If a child is under the age of 13, they must wear a life jacket at all times.

Boat checklist

  • Proof of registration
  • Horn or whistle
  • Serviceable fire extinguisher 
  • Kill switch – it can be attached to you or have an electronic one present
  • Everyone under the age of 13 must have a boater education card
  • Every passenger must have a life jack on the boat

Officers also recommend checking the weather prior to leaving the dock. The Texas Parks and Wildlife has an app with an additional list of items.

Consequences of boating while intoxicated

Most first-offense BWIs are Class B misdemeanors and carry up to $2,000 in fines and between 72 hours and 180 days in jail. However, if a first offender caused injury or death to another person, the penalties are:

  • Serious bodily injury to another (intoxication assault): Third-degree felony; between two and ten years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
  • Death (intoxication manslaughter): Second-degree felony; between two and 20 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

And the penalties are further enhanced if the victim either suffered a traumatic brain injury that resulted in a “persistent vegetative state” or was a peace officer, firefighter, or emergency medical personnel in the line of duty.

This information is according to dui.drivinglaws.org.