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Boating while Intoxicated: Not a Day at the Beach!

Boating while Intoxicated: Not a Day at the Beach!

Chances are if you live in Nassau County and are fortunate enough to enjoy your summers here, you either own a boat or know someone who does. Boating on the waters surrounding Nassau County is as summertime as BBQs and beaches, and can be some of the most fun you’ll ever have.

With that being said, the days of operating your boat and having a few cocktails without the possibility of being arrested and prosecuted are long gone. Every summer, law enforcement gets more and more stringent on cracking down on “Boating While Intoxicated (BWI).” Today the consequences of such an arrest, both from a criminal record standpoint and a financial one, can be devastating.

Nassau County Boating Laws

New York Navigation Law §49-a is the controlling statute for the crime of BWI in New York waters and mirrors the Driving While Intoxicated statute under NY Vehicle and Traffic Law §1192. As with DWIs, the legal limit for a breath alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08% and a refusal to submit to a chemical test will still result in BWI charges under what is commonly referred to as a common law BWI. A conviction for a misdemeanor BWI carries with it the potential for up to one year in jail, fines, mandatory boating safety classes and a suspension of one’s boating license for one year. Additionally, as New York does not have an expungement statute, a BWI conviction will remain on one’s criminal record for the rest of that person’s life.

As with DWIs, there is a possibility under some circumstances to get a BWI arrest “knocked down” to the violation known as “Boating While Ability Impaired (BWAI)”. A violation of BWAI is not a misdemeanor and while it stays on someone’s permanent record, it does so as a violation of the law and not as a criminal act. With a BWAI conviction the maximum amount of jail time that can be served is fifteen (15) days and there is a mandatory loss of a boater’s license for ninety (90) days. Fines and safety classes, as with the BWI conviction, will also be imposed.

It should also be noted that a second conviction for BWI within ten (10) years of the first conviction is a Class E felony, and someone could potentially be sentenced to a maximum of 16 months to 4 years in prison, a suspension of one’s boating license for up to twenty-four (24) months, inflated fines and safety classes. Importantly, while a conviction for BWI or BWAI does not result in the suspension or revocation of one’s automobile driver’s license, these convictions are reported to the NY Department of Motor Vehicles and therefore could (and will likely) cause an increase in one’s auto insurance rates.

Contact a Nassau County BWI/BWAI Attorney

Successfully defending a BWI arrest and prosecution requires a criminal defense attorney who is familiar with the intricacies of chemical testing (whether it be the Intoxilyzer 5000, a urine test or a blood kit) and possesses the advocacy skills to successfully attack the “observations” of the arresting officer and the arguments relied upon by the prosecution in these cases. We at Foley Griffin, LLP pride ourselves on our skill and experience in zealously defending our clients who are accused of BWI or BWAI. If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation where your day on the boat turned into a day at the police precinct do not hesitate to call upon us to educate you and assist in your defense.

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