Assembly Passes Increased Penalties for BWI

July 17, 2008

The New York State Assembly gave final legislative passage today to a measure aimed at keeping dangerous boaters off state waterways. Assemblyman Robin Schimminger sponsored the legislation (A.3143/S.1823), which provides the courts flexible suspension periods for boating while intoxicated (BWI) and reckless vessel operation offenses.

Specifically, the legislation will give the courts the flexibility to suspend a person's privilege to operate a vessel for a period of three to twelve months for reckless operation of a vessel. For a second reckless operation offense within eighteen months, a third vessel speeding or other misdemeanor operator offense, or for operating a vessel while ability is impaired by alcohol, the legislation mandates that the court suspend a person's privilege to operate a vessel and allows for the court to have flexibility in determining the suspension of a vessel registration for a period of six to twelve months.

“Current law allows for these sentences to be set at either three or six months, depending on the offense,” said Schimminger. “This could potentially allow an individual to commit an offense, be sentenced and venture back out into the water during the same boating season. It seems that if we as a society are going to take BWI and other boating-related offenses seriously, the court should take into consideration the seriousness of the offense and should be able to impose longer suspensions, including into the next boating season.”

“Above all, we must keep our state’s plentiful creeks, rivers, and other waterways safe for people to use and enjoy. It is my hope that individuals will think twice before engaging in behavior that could lead to injury or death for themselves or others,” said Schimminger, who has advocated tougher BWI laws since a 1992 boating accident on the Niagara River took the life of a young man named Geatano “Guy” Kyler.

Senator John DeFrancisco sponsors this legislation in the State Senate. This legislation now awaits final approval by the governor.