Senate Passes Bill Requiring Mandatory Chemical Tests For Public Vessel Operators

Andrew J Lanza

May 30, 2007

The New York State Senate today passed legislation (S.424) that would mandate chemical tests for operators of public vessels to determine if alcohol or drugs are a factor in accidents where serious injury, death or disappearance occurs, or when serious damage to the vessel or another vessel occurs.

Present law allows for chemical testing only when a police officer has reasonable cause to believe that a public boat operator is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

"By requiring a chemical blood test, we would eliminate any doubt whether or not alcohol or drugs are a factor in a public boating accident," said Senator Lanza. "Having this information available would ensure a more thorough investigation of a serious public boating accident. Strengthening the law to be more consistent with the heightened responsibility of operating a public vessel is the right thing to do for the public and the boating industry."

"Operators of public boats and vessels have a tremendous amount of responsibility to their passengers, and when an accident occurs, it’s common sense to test to see if alcohol or drugs were involved," Senator Lanza added. "This legislation will help protect the public, and ensure that if an accident does occur, a chemical test will be performed, and a thorough investigation will take place."

Failure to submit to a chemical test would result in the immediate suspension of the operator's boating privileges and the revocation of any public license issued by New York State for the operation of a public vessel. Under provisions of the proposed law, operators would also face fines ranging between $2,500 and $5,000 for refusing to submit to a chemical test.

Failure to submit to a chemical test could be used as evidence at any subsequent criminal or administrative hearing.

The bill was sent to the Assembly.