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New penalties for boating while impaired ADVERTISEMENT

New penalties for boating while impaired

NEW YORK STATE (8/24/16)--Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed "Tiffany Heitkamp's" Law last week, which strengthens penalties for boating while intoxicated offenses by linking them to prior drinking while driving offenses involving a vehicle. The bill requires courts to consider prior Driving While Intoxicated or Driving While Ability Impaired convictions when sentencing a person for Boating While Intoxicated or Boating While Ability Impaired.
"Whether behind the wheel of a car or a boat, drunk drivers are a danger to themselves and a menace to others," Cuomo said. "This new law closes this loophole and will help keep these dangerous individuals off our roads and waterways, avoiding more senseless tragedies."
Under current law, there is no linkage between 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. The bill addresses this gap by linking these similar offenses and providing harsher penalties for repeat offenders.
Specifically, this measure requires that a court sentencing an individual for a BWI 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. This change would require a sentencing judge to impose a higher sentence on those who repeatedly get behind the wheel in an intoxicated state, regardless of whether it is a car or a boat.
"When someone has a history of operating a vehicle or vessel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, that record should be taken into account when the individual is sentenced," Sen. John A. DeFrancisco said. "Repeat offenders should be held accountable for their history of dangerous actions to help deter further tragedies."
The "Tiffany Heitkamp" bill was named after a young Syracuse-area woman who was killed in July 2006 while traveling as a passenger in a boat operated by an intoxicated person. The individual operating the boat had a record of alcohol-related automobile incidents. However, because there was no link between prior convictions for Boating While Intoxicated, he could only be charged as if this was his first BWI.

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