Flanagan And Dinapoli Successful In Fight To Protect Boaters

John J. Flanagan

June 29, 2006

Senator John J. Flanagan (2nd Senate District) and Assemblyman Thomas DiNapoli (16th Assembly District) announced that legislation that would increase the penalties for those convicted of boating while intoxicated (BWI) has passed both houses of the New York State Legislature.

The legislation, which the two lawmakers sponsored in their respective houses, would bring the current penalties for BWI up to the level of penalties faced by those convicted of drunk driving. The legislation will now be sent to the Governor for his approval.

"Boating while intoxicated is as serious as driving while intoxicated and the penalties need to reflect that fact. Summer fun should be carefree and intoxicated boaters infringe on the rights of law abiding boaters. This legislation would greatly enhance the protection of families and innocent boaters who travel around Long Island all summer long," added Senator Flanagan.

"Where there is recreational boating there is often recreational drinking which can have lethal consequences," said Assemblyman DiNapoli. "This bill will give Marine law enforcement and prosecutors the necessary tools to maintain an aggressive posture against BWI and BWAI violators."

In 2003, Senator Flanagan and Assemblyman DiNapoli joined together to successfully lower New York State's BWI blood alcohol content (BAC) threshold from .10 to .08. Like the 2003 effort, this new legislation will bring uniformity to the alcohol related standards for driving and boating.

"Boating while intoxicated is at least as dangerous as driving while intoxicated because the sun increases the intoxication of alcohol. While sitting and fishing one summer day, two brothers were killed by an intoxicated boater and their families have never been the same," stated Denna Cohen, the President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Long Island. "Enjoy your boat and the summer and don't drink and boat or drive. Be the life of the party, not the death of it."

"Too often people plan a day of boating which includes alcohol. Sadly, they don't stop to think that BWI has the same lethal potential as DWI. Boaters should designate a captain who will ensure the safety of his or her passengers as well as others sharing our waterways," said Drive Educated Drive Informed Commit and Totally End Drunk Driving (DEDICATEDD) President and Co-Founder Marge Lee. "DEDICATEDD applauds Senator Flanagan and Assemblyman DiNapoli for sponsoring this legislation. We thank them for their determination and tenacity on this issue."

Boating while intoxicated convictions currently bring lighter sentences than similar DWI convictions and this legislation would bring the two crimes in line with one another.

Under the legislation, a first conviction for boating while intoxicated (BWI) would be a misdemeanor which carries a sentence of up to one year instead of the current ninety days. The fine would increase from a minimum of $350 and a maximum of $500 to a range of between $500 and $1,000.

A second conviction for BWI within ten years would rise to Class E felony status with a sentence of up to 4 years in prison and a fine between $1,000 and $5,000. Those convicted of Boating While Intoxicated three times within ten years shall be charged with a Class D felony and face up to seven years in prison and a fine between $2,000 and $10,000.

The fine for a first time conviction of Boating While Ability Impaired would increase the penalty to a maximum of $500, up from its current maximum of $350. A second infraction within a five year period would carry a maximum fine of $750 and up to 30 days imprisonment. The penalty for a third conviction of BWAI within a 10 year period would increase from an infraction to a misdemeanor and would carry a maximum period of imprisonment of six months and a maximum fine of up to $1,500.

In 2004, the most recent year statistics are available from the state's Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, there were about 520,000 registered boats in New York, with 178 boating accidents reported. Of the 18 boating accidents that resulted in deaths in New York that year, nearly 28 percent involved alcohol.

These new penalties would become effective thirty days after the Governor signs the legislation into law.