Boating While Impaired

The Wilmington, New Hanover County, area is a haven for boating and water sports enthusiasts. The opportunities for boating, wakeboarding, sailing and other boating activities are plentiful. If you love to get out on the water, please remember that the dangers of drinking and driving apply to many boating activities, too.

STANDARD SAFETY CHECKS AND IMPAIRED BOATING CHARGES

North Carolina takes impaired boating seriously. State law allows an officer to stop a boat operator at any time for relevant safety inspections, including a check for life vests or other emergency equipment. This means that the constitutional protections afforded to an operator of a car are much less applicable on water. If you are caught operating a boat or watercraft under the influence of drugs or alcohol during a standard safety check, you could be charged with a BUI ("boating under the influence") or BWI ("boating while intoxicated") charge.

Three primary divisions make impaired boating arrests on the water in New Hanover County, which includes the towns of Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach and Kure Beach and the Intracoastal Water Way.

  • The U.S. Coast Guard
  • The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission
  • The New Hanover County Sheriff's Office

After an arrest, most BUI/BWI suspects are worried about potential penalties. Drunk driving in a vehicle and an impaired boating offense are in many ways, very similar. The same battery of sobriety tests are often used, and the equivalent portable and stationary breath test devices are also similar. Recently, the penalties pertaining to potential jail time and license consequences have become comparable.

SHEYENNE'S LAW IN 2016

In June 2016, Governor Pat McCrory signed a bill into law that increases the consequences for impaired boaters who cause injuries or fatalities. The penalties of the new legislation closely parallel those of drunk driving. The bill, "Sheyenne's Law," comes after the death of a North Carolina teenager by an intoxicated boater.

Beginning December 1, 2016, serious injury or death caused by impaired boating will be a felony punishable by a minimum of three years in prison.

NEED HELP WITH YOUR BWI CASE?

At our firm, we take impaired boating charges seriously. For each case, we conduct a comprehensive examination of the facts associated with a charge. We also initiate discussions with court personnel, charging officers and the District Attorney's Office. We can go over all your options and tell you the worst-case and best-case scenarios. We have handled thousands of impaired driving offenses and are well prepared to give you a likely forecast as to what your future holds with this type of case. It is always a good idea to know what to expect. We help clients navigate the complexities of the criminal justice system with this approach.

North Carolina State Bar's Board of Legal Specialization has certified Woody White as a specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law, and James Blanton is a former state and federal prosecutor. Our specialty and experience give us a unique perspective on how the District Attorney's prosecute these offenses, what the judges think about hearing these matters, and finally, what you can expect as your case moves through the system.

In recent years, impaired boating laws have gained traction in the North Carolina General Assembly. Fortunately, our firm keeps up with relevant laws and has ample experience handling these cases.

Please call today for assistance with boating legal defense in New Hanover County, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach or Wilmington, North Carolina areas. You can contact our lawyers at 866-677-8525.