Winters in New York can be harsh, but when spring rolls around, most people on Long Island will want to enjoy swimming, water-skiing, sailing, and other water-based recreations. It can be great fun – until and unless someone operating a boat becomes intoxicated.

Drugs and alcohol can cause blurred vision, impaired balance, impaired judgment, poor coordination, and slower reaction times. Alcohol is a leading cause of boating accidents, injuries, and fatalities. An impaired boater can be extremely dangerous.

If you are accused of boating while intoxicated, you may not be guilty, but you must have a Long Island DWI lawyer’s help.

WHAT CONSTITUTES BOATING WHILE INTOXICATED?

Here in New York, drinking while you operate a boat is illegal just like drinking when you drive a car. When a boat operator’s blood alcohol content (BAC) level measures 0.08 percent or more, the operator may be charged with Boating While Intoxicated.

Several crimes in New York are related to BWI:

1. Boating while ability-impaired by alcohol or “alcohol-BWAI.” An alcohol-BWAI charge may be filed if you are boating while impaired in any way by alcohol.

2. Boating while ability-impaired by drugs or “drug-BWAI.” A drug-BWAI charge may be filed if you are boating while impaired in any way by drugs.

WHAT ABOUT COMMERCIAL AND UNDERAGE BOAT OPERATORS?

If you are operating a boat commercially in New York waters, a BAC measurement of 0.04 percent will trigger a BWI charge.

If you are under 21 years old, “zero tolerance” for alcohol is the rule in New York, and you may be charged with “underage BWI” for operating a boat with a BAC level as low as 0.02 percent.

WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR ALCOHOL-BWAI?

Generally speaking, the penalties for a BWI conviction or a BWAI conviction will depend on the offender’s prior BWI, BWAI, DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) and DWAI (Driving While Ability-Impaired) convictions, if any. These are the penalties for alcohol-BWAI:

1. A first alcohol-BWAI offense is considered a violation. A first conviction is punishable with a fine of up to $500 and up to fifteen days in jail.

2. A second alcohol-BWAI offense in five years is a misdemeanor. A second conviction within five years is punishable with a fine of up to $750 and up to thirty days in jail.

3. A third alcohol-BWAI offense within ten years is also a misdemeanor. A third conviction within ten years is punishable with a fine of up to $1,500 and up to 180 days in jail.

All convicted alcohol-BWAI offenders lose their privilege to operate a boat for at least six months.

WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR DRUG-BWAI AND FOR BWI?

Convictions for BWI and for drug-DWAI lead to the same penalties:

1. A first drug-BWAI or BWI offense is a misdemeanor. A first conviction is punishable with a fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail.

2. A second drug-BWAI or BWI offense within ten years is a Class E felony. A second conviction within ten years is punishable with a fine of up to $5,000 and up to four years in a New York prison.

3. A third drug-BWAI or BWI offense within ten years is a Class D felony. A third conviction within ten years is punishable with a fine of up to $10,000 and up to seven years in a New York prison.

FOR HOW LONG CAN YOUR RIGHT TO OPERATE A BOAT BE SUSPENDED?

Boaters convicted of a first-offense drug-BWAI or BWI will lose their privilege to operate a boat for one year. If a boater is convicted a second time of drug-BWAI or BWI within ten years, the privilege to operate a boat is suspended for two years.

If you are operating a boat while intoxicated and you cause an accident and/or injuries, you will face additional charges and harsher penalties.

All convicted Boating While Intoxicated offenders must also complete eight hours of boating safety classes.

HOW CAN A DWI LAW FIRM IN NY HELP?

If you are charged with any alcohol-related crime on Long Island or anywhere in the New York City area, you must be advised and represented by an experienced Long Island DWI attorney.

If law enforcement officers violated your legal rights, or if there are questions about the reliability of the breathalyzer results, a good DWI lawyer may be able to have the charge against you dismissed or reduced to a lesser charge.

Of course, if you are innocent, you should reject any plea bargain offer and insist on a trial by jury. If your case goes to trial, your DWI attorney will advocate aggressively on your behalf and will explain to the jurors why they should find you not guilty.

WHAT ARE THE STATISTICS ON BOATING ACCIDENTS AND ALCOHOL?

The Coast Guard tells us that in 2015, across the United States, 4,158 recreational boating accidents led to 626 fatalities, 2,613 other serious injuries, and about $42 million dollars in property damages.

In 2016, fifty percent of the boating fatalities in New York – eleven of twenty-two – were linked to alcohol or drugs.

Recreational boating in the state of New York is a $2 billion industry enjoyed by thousands of our state’s residents and visitors alike. But with nearly 450,000 powerboats registered in this state, there are plenty of opportunities for serious accidents and injuries.

WHAT SAFETY PRECAUTIONS SHOULD BOATERS TAKE?

This spring and summer, and whenever you enjoy the waters around New York City and Long Island, do not forget to take these important safety precautions:

1. Check a reliable weather forecast before you depart.
2. Wear a life jacket and make sure that everyone aboard wears one too.
3. Have flares, a powerful and dependable flashlight, a fire extinguisher, and a marine radio.
4. Do not drink alcohol or use any drugs before you operate a boat or any other watercraft.

WHAT ELSE IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW ABOUT BOATING AND BWI?

Do not even think about operating a boat if you have not completed a boating safety course. If you are the boat owner or operator, you must be proactive about safe boating.

Still, if you’re charged with BWI in New York because you made a bad decision about drinking – or if you’re innocent and wrongly accused – reach out as quickly as you can to an experienced DWI attorney for the legal help you will need. Your future and your freedom could depend on it.