Boaters caught operating their vessels while intoxicated will now have any previous drunken driving convictions used against them to strengthen penalties.
On Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed “Tiffany Heitkamp’s” Law, legislation that links boating while intoxicated offenses to prior drunken driving conviction. Under the bill, courts will be required to consider those convictions when sentencing a person for BWI or boating while ability impaired charges.
“Whether behind the wheel of a car or a boat, drunk drivers are a danger to themselves and a menace to others,” Governor Cuomo said. “This new law closes this loophole and will help keep these dangerous individuals off our roads and waterways, avoiding more senseless tragedies.”
Before the law was signed, courts could not link prior DWI and DWAI offenses and BWI offenses.
“This makes it impossible to convict an individual as a repeat offender, despite prior violations of similar laws,” according to Governor Cuomo’s office.
Under the new law, court sentencing for individuals with a BWI charge carrying a 30-day sentence must consider any prior DWIs or DWAIs by the same individual within a five-year period. When sentencing for a BWAI carrying a 180-day sentence, the court must consider prior DWIs or DWAIs within a 10-year period.
The bill was named after a young Syracuse woman who was killed in July 2006 while traveling as a passenger in a boat operated by an drunk person. The individual operating the boat had a record of alcohol-related automobile incidents, but because he had never been caught boating drunk, the driver could only be charged as if it was his first BWI.
Photo caption: A boater was charged with BWI in 2011 after crashing into Greenport breakwater. (File photo)