As the North Carolina law stands today, the punishments are not the same for somebody who hits a person while impaired operating a boat (BWI) versus hitting a person while impaired operating a vehicle (DWI). House Bill 958 is making its way through the North Carolina state legislature to make the punishments the same for both impaired offenses.
Understanding the Boating While Impaired (BWI) Law in NC
The new House Bill 958 calls for harsher penalties for boating while impaired (BWI)—specifically going after boaters who seriously injure or kill someone while drunk or on drugs.
Currently, BWI offenders only face misdemeanor charges. State lawmakers want to upgrade offenses to felonies.
If the law passes—a drunken or impaired boater who hurts or kills someone on the water will receive similar punishments as a drunken or impaired driver who hurts or kills someone on the road. If the bill becomes law it’s scheduled to take effect starting in December 2016.
The bill is in memory of Sheyenne Marshall, a teenager who was killed in Lake Norman last summer by a boater who was allegedly impaired*.
The existing North Carolina Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) Law
§ 75A-10 reads: Operating vessel or manipulating water skis, etc., in reckless manner; operating, etc., while intoxicated, etc.; depositing or discharging litter, etc.
(a) No person shall operate any motorboat or vessel, or manipulate any water skis, surfboard, or similar device on the waters of this State in a reckless or negligent manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person.
(b) No person shall manipulate any water skis, surfboard, non-motorized vessel, or similar device on the waters of this State while under the influence of an impairing substance.
(b1) No person shall operate any vessel while underway on the waters of this State:
(1) While under the influence of an impairing substance, or
(2) After having consumed sufficient alcohol that the person has, at any relevant time after the boating, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.
(b2) The fact that a person charged with violating this subsection is or has been legally entitled to use alcohol or a drug is not a defense to a charge under subsections (b) and (b1) of this section. The relevant definitions contained in G.S. 20-4.01 shall apply to subsections (b), (b1), and (b2) of this section.
(b3) A person who violates a provision of subsection (a) or (b) of this section is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.
(b4) A person who violates subsection (b1) of this section is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not less than two hundred fifty dollars ($250.00).
(c) No person shall place, throw, deposit, or discharge or cause to be placed, thrown, deposited, or discharged on the waters of this State or into the inland lake waters of this State, any litter, raw sewage, bottles, cans, papers, or other liquid or solid materials which render the waters unsightly, noxious, or otherwise unwholesome so as to be detrimental to the public health or welfare or to the enjoyment and safety of the water for recreational purposes.
(d) No person shall place, throw, deposit, or discharge or cause to be placed, thrown, deposited, or discharged on the waters of this State or into the inland lake waters of this State any medical waste as defined by G.S. 130A-290 which renders the waters unsightly, noxious, or otherwise unwholesome so as to be detrimental to the public health or welfare or to the enjoyment and safety of the water for recreational purposes.
(e) A person who willfully violates subsection (d) of this section is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. A person who willfully violates subsection (d) of this section and in so doing releases medical waste that creates a substantial risk of physical injury to any person who is not a participant in the offense is guilty of a Class F felony which may include a fine not to exceed fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) per day of violation.
As you can read, the laws on boating while intoxicated are tough. If you find yourself facing a BWI charge, please contact our law office at Ballantyne Legal at 704-887-4981 for a free consultation or contact us here. We will listen to your story and provide the best legal advice that we can to help you with your BWI infraction. We are here to help.
*Source Fox 8 TV, Raleigh