Senator Flanagan's Legislation To Enhance Boating While Intoxicated Laws Passes Senate

John J. Flanagan

June 22, 2006

Senator John J. Flanagan (2nd Senate District) today announced that legislation that would increase the penalties for those convicted of boating while intoxicated (BWI) has passed the New York State Senate. The legislation would bring the current penalties for BWI in line with the penalties faced by those convicted of drunk driving. The legislation is under consideration in the New York State Assembly where it is sponsored by Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli (16th Assembly District).

In 2003, Senator Flanagan joined with Assemblyman DiNapoli to successfully lower 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 the 2003 effort, this new legislation will bring uniformity to the alcohol related standards for driving and boating.

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 within a five year period would carry a maximum fine of $750 and up to 30 days imprisonment just as it currently does. 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.

"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.