Senator John J. Flanagan (2nd Senate District) announced today that, as of Sunday, August 6th, the penalties for Boating While Intoxicated will be increased. Senator Flanagan sponsored the new law in partnership with Assemblyman Thomas DiNapoli (16th Assembly District). The new law, which was passed in June and signed by Governor George Pataki in the beginning of July, will bring the current penalties for BWI up to the level of penalties faced by those convicted of drunk driving.
"Assemblyman DiNapoli and I fought for this law because boaters should be able to enjoy the waterways of Long Island without being confronted by those who disregard the law. The rights of the innocent law abiding boaters should be, and now will be, protected," stated Senator Flanagan.
"Where there is recreational boating there is often recreational drinking which can have lethal consequences," said Assemblyman DiNapoli. "This law will give Marine law enforcement and prosecutors the necessary tools to maintain an aggressive posture against BWI and BWAI violators."
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 convictions currently bring lighter sentences than similar DWI convictions and this change in the law will bring the two crimes in line with one another.
"Boating while intoxicated is at least as dangerous as driving while intoxicated because the sun increases the effects 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. Either on land or sea, drive alcohol free."
"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 change. We thank them for their determination and tenacity on this issue."
Under the new law, a first conviction for boating while intoxicated (BWI) will be a misdemeanor which carries a sentence of up to one year instead of the current ninety days. The fine will 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 will rise to a 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 will increase the penalty to a maximum of $500, up from its current maximum of $350. A second infraction within a five year period will 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 will increase from an infraction to a misdemeanor and will carry a maximum period of imprisonment of six months and a maximum fine of up to $1,500.
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 law will bring uniformity to the alcohol related standards for driving and boating.
"Boating while intoxicated is not a harmless activity and now it will be treated in the serious manner it needs to be. The message is clear and it should be easy to understand - drive a boat drunk and you will face stiff fines and imprisonment. Be smart, designate a driver whether in your car or on the water and be safe," concluded Senator Flanagan.
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