Senator Flanagan And Assemblyman Dinapoli Work To Enhance Boater Safety

John J. Flanagan

June 01, 2006

Senator John J. Flanagan (2nd Senate District) and Assemblyman Thomas DiNapoli (16th Assembly District) today joined to announce legislation that would increase the penalties for those convicted of boating while intoxicated (BWI). The legislation, which the two lawmakers have 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 is currently under consideration in both the Assembly and the Senate.

The legislation would also bring uniformity to the penalties for boating while ability impaired and the penalties for driving while ability impaired. In 2003, Senator Flanagan and Assemblyman DiNapoli joined together to successfully lower the New York State's BWI blood alcohol content (BAC) threshold from .10 to .08. Under that law, a person found to have a BAC level of .08 or more while boating will lose the privilege to operate a boat for one year, and will also be subject to a fine of up to $500 and up to 90 days in jail.

Like the2003 effort, this new legislation will bring uniformity to the alcohol related standards for driving and boating.

"With over one million boaters throughout the state, we need to provide the law enforcement community with the necessary tools to prosecute those who operate a boat without exercising proper responsibility. By enhancing the penalties, we will enhance their ability to protect our valuable and beautiful Long Island waterways," stated Senator Flanagan.

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

Boating while intoxicated convictions currently bring lighter sentences than similar DWI convictions and the legislation would amend that inequity.

Under the legislation, a first conviction for boating while intoxicated (BWI) shall be a misdemeanor which carries a sentence of up to one year instead of the current ninety days. The fine shall 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 $300. A second infraction would continue to carry a maximum fine of $1,500 and up to 30 days imprisonment just as it currently does. However, 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 $2,500, an increase of $1,000.

The legislation sponsored by Senator Flanagan and Assemblyman DiNapoli would also increase the fine levels for repeat convictions of driving while ability impaired (DWAI). A second conviction for driving with ability impaired (DWAI) would bring a maximum fine of $1,500 instead of the current $750. A third conviction for DWAI would bring a maximum fine of $2,500 for those drivers.

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.

"The fact that boaters travel in unmarked lanes of travel, sometimes at high speed and often with a lack of experience makes stopping BWI and BWAI a key to safeguarding our waterways. The legislation that I have joined with Assemblyman DiNapoli to sponsor will greatly enhance the protection of families and innocent boaters who travel around Long Island all summer long," added Senator Flanagan. "The summer season on Long Island should be carefree and stopping DWI on our waterways will provide a great measure of safety."