Drinking & Boating Now Same As DWI in New York

New York State lawmakers have made drinking and driving a boat equal to drinking and driving a vehicle. Each now has a legal threshold of .08 blood alcohol content, and if charged with a Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) the penalties are same as being arrested for DWI.

The new law is aimed at reducing the number of alcohol-related accidents on New York’s lakes and waterways by aggressively going after drunken boat operators. State Senator John Flanagan, one of the bill’s sponsors, said people "don’t stop to think that BWI has the same lethal potential as DWI."

Deputy John Whitehair of the Monroe County Sheriff Marine Patrol said, "For the longest time, I think there’s been a misconception that boating and drinking go hand and hand. I’ve investigated numerous crashes and most of them involve alcohol."

A first conviction BWI is now considered a misdemeanor, with a potential prison term of up to one year and a fine of up to one thousand dollars. A second offense could yield a felony charge with up to a four year prison term and a one thousand to five thousand dollars fine. A third conviction could result in up to seven years in prison and a maximum fine of ten thousand dollars. Previously, a boating while intoxicated conviction meant a ticket, a maximum of 90 days in jail and a $500 fine.

"Were in the business of trying to ensure everyone’s safety on the water and we’ll go to any length to do that," said Whitehair.

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