It’s a beautiful summer afternoon, and you’re enjoying some time on the water in your boat. After having a few beers, you drive the boat back toward your marina. But you get stopped by law enforcement. They arrest you and charge you with Boating While Intoxicated. Here’s what you need to know about such a charge.
Boating While Intoxicated and Related Charges
Many of boating offenses are similar to Driving While Intoxicated (“DWI”) charges. For example, you can charged with Boating While Ability Impaired by Alcohol (“BWAI Alcohol”) if you’re operating a boat while your ability is impaired to any extent by alcohol. You can also be charged with Boating While Ability Impaired by Drugs (“BWAI Drugs”) if you’re impaired to any extent by drugs.
Boating While Intoxicated (“BWI”) involves boating while “substantially” impaired by drugs or alcohol. You can also be charged with Boating While Intoxicated Per Se (“BWI Per Se”); this means you’re being charged with boating with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more. Note that if someone is operating a boat being used for commercial purposes, the operator can be charged with BWI Per Se if their BAC is 0.04% or greater.
Penalties for Boating While Intoxicated
For a first offense of BWAI Alcohol, this is a violation and not a crime. Fines range from $300 to $500, and there is a possible sentence of 15 days in jail. A second offense is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and increased fines. Thereafter, a third offense involves even more fines and jail time. Additionally, the privilege to operate a boat can be suspended for six months or more for any BWAI Alcohol charge.
For BWAI Drugs, BWI, and BWI Per Se, first offenses are charged as misdemeanors punishable by up to 364 days in jail. There are also fines of $500 to $1,000, as well as the suspension of boat operating privileges. For a second offense within ten years, this is a class E felony which can result in up to 4 years in prison and heft fines. And for a third offense within a decade, the charge rises to a class D felony carrying up to 7 years in prison.
Other Important Info on Boating While Intoxicated
While a Boating While Intoxicated offense may not affect your driver’s license, your prior criminal history can affect the seriousness of the offense. Specifically, most impaired or intoxicated driving offenses count as priors if you’re charged with a Boating While Intoxicated offense. This includes:
- Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol
- Driving While Ability Impaired by Drugs (or Combination Drugs & Alcohol)
- Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated
- Driving While Intoxicated
- Driving While Intoxicated Per Se
Similarly, if you’re charged with impaired or intoxicated driving offenses and you have a prior Boating While Intoxicated offense, that will also count as a prior offense.
BWI applies only to boats that are partially or fully motorized, being operated in a public waterway. Note, however, if you’re intoxicated and using a non-motorized boat, you could be charged with other crimes. For example, you could be charged with Reckless Endangerment.
- NYS Navigation Law § 49-a, “Operation of a vessel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.” Available at: https://codes.findlaw.com/ny/navigation-law/nav-sect-49-a.html (last accessed July 20, 2021).
- NYS Navigation Law § 49-b, “Operating a vessel after having consumed alcohol; under the age of twenty-one; per se.” https://codes.findlaw.com/ny/navigation-law/nav-sect-49-b.html (last accessed July 20, 2021).
- Former New York State Senator John J. Flanagan, “Stronger Boating While Intoxicated Laws Now In Effect” (Aug. 4, 2006). Available at: https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/in-the-news/john-j-flanagan/stronger-boating-while-intoxicated-laws-now-effect (last accessed July 20, 2021).