If the idea of spending a relaxing day on the lake enjoying a few cold ones with friends is your kind of fun, you might want to reconsider your choice of leisure activity. Boating is still fine, of course, but if you do so while impaired, you could be facing harsher penalties in North Carolina if caught.
What is the new law?
A new law, entitled "Sheyenne's Law," was named to honor the 17-year-old Cox High School student Sheyenne Marshall, whose death promoted the change in impaired boating regulations. Sheyenne was unfortunately killed when she was struck by a boat operated by an impaired driver who was enjoying a day kneeboarding on Lake Norman. Governor Pat McCrory was responsible for signing the new bill into law. He had the following to say about the law:
"This bill cannot bring Shyenne back to us, but it can help save others by sending a strong message that drunk driving in a boat is just as dangerous as in a car."
How does it differ from the previous law?
At the time of Sheyenne's death, the charge for impaired boating was a misdemeanor. Under the new law, the penalty for impaired boating increased from a misdemeanor to a felony. The specific type of felony will be decided per each case. Governor McCrory warns boaters who might be thinking of driving a boat while under the influence of alcohol:
"If you get in a boat -- and especially behind the wheel -- you better take responsibility for that action. And if you don't, no longer is it going to be a misdemeanor, it's going to be a felony."
Starting December 1, 2016, the charge for impaired boating resulting in serious injury or death will be a felony, requiring at least three years in prison.
If you love to enjoy the water, go for it. Just be extra careful this summer -- especially in light of the new law. Impaired boating laws are always evolving in North Carolina. If you need help after BWI/BUI charges, it's best to secure legal help.