New York law prohibits operating a boat or other watercraft “propelled in whole or in part by mechanical power” while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. New York has several classifications of boating under the influence (BUI):
BUI penalties depend on which classification a boater is convicted of and whether the offender has any prior BUI or driving-under-the-influence convictions. (See N.Y. Nav. Law § 49-a (McKinney) (2016).)
An alcohol-BWAI carries the lightest penalties of the BUI offenses. The consequences for a first, second, and third alcohol-BWAI are:
All boaters convicted of an alcohol-BWAI—regardless of whether they have prior convictions—will have their privilege to operate a boat suspended for at least six but not more than 12 months.
The remaining BUI offenses—drug-BWAI, BWI, and per se BUI—all carry the same consequences. The first, second, and third-offense penalties are:
For boaters convicted of a first-offense drug-DWAI, BWI, or per se BUI, there’s an operator-privilege suspension of 12 months. Second offenders—those with a prior within the past ten years—face a 24-month suspension.
All boaters convicted of a BUI offense must complete an eight-hour boater safety course.
Subsequent to the effective date—November 1, 2016—of Tiffany Heitkamp’s Law, most impaired driving offenses will count as priors for BUI sentencing. As with BUIs, New York has several classifications of impaired driving:
(N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law § 1192 (McKinney) (2016).)
For those convicted of a drug-BWAI, BWI, or per se BUI, the new law will count all of the following as prior offenses:
However, impaired driving convictions won’t count as priors for purposes of operator-license suspensions.
HOW MUCH TIME WOULD YOU ACTUALLY SPEND IN JAIL?
Sentencing law is complex. For example, a statute might list a “minimum” jail sentence that’s longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including credits for good in-custody behavior and jail-alternative work programs.
If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your jurisdiction will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.
If you’ve been arrested for boating under the influence, you should get in contact with a local attorney that handles BUI cases. An experienced attorney can tell you how the law applies to the facts of your case and whether there are any available defenses to your charges.