New York Enacts New Boating-While-Intoxicated Legislation

By John McCurley

motorboat

On August 16, 2016, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed Tiffany Heitkamp’s Law. The new legislation—which takes effect November 1, 2016—increases the boating-while-intoxicated (BWI) penalties for most offenders with prior drunk-driving convictions.

In New York, anyone with a prior offense who’s convicted of either BWI or DWI is subject to greater penalties. But whether the prior offense was a BWI or a DWI can make a big difference.

Under current New York law, a BWI conviction is punished as a repeat offense only if the prior conviction was also for BWI. So, even if a boater has three prior DWIs—but no prior BWIs—a BWI conviction will be considered first offense.

Once Tiffany Heitkamp’s Law goes into effect, a DWI will count as a prior offense when someone is being sentenced for BWI. For instance, if a BWI offender has been convicted twice of DWI in the past three years, the current BWI will be punished as a third offense.

Interestingly, the new law doesn’t go the other way: It doesn’t make BWI offenses count as priors for purposes of sentencing DWI offenders. In other words, a first-time DWI offender with multiple BWI priors will still be sentenced as a first offender.