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North Carolina Drunk Boating Law

What is the New Law Against Drunk Boating?

NC Boat Accident Lawyer Explains the New Law to Prevent Boating Crashes

Drunk boating is just as dangerous as drunk driving. In fact, a boat crash can be even more serious than a car accident because it occurs on water, so drowning is a real threat. According to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, approximately 25 people died in boating accidents in our state in 2015. Approximately half of those deaths resulted from drunk boating. In recognition of this threat, the North Carolina legislature enacted an appropriate new law, which took effect on December 1, 2016. This law makes the penalties for drunk boating similar to those for drunk driving. In general, driving while impaired is prohibited in North Carolina.

If you sustain serious injuries or lose a loved one in a boating accident, then you may be able to recover compensation for your injuries and damages. A North Carolina boat accident lawyer from Riddle & Brantley can investigate your claim and determine your legal options. Additionally, we can answer your questions about the state’s new drunk boating law. Our attorneys have experience with accidents and injuries on the water. In one case, we successfully represented victims of a drunk boating accident that occurred in the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.

What is North Carolina’s New Drunk Boating Law?

“Sheyenne’s Law” is the new North Carolina law that establishes penalties for drunk boaters. It is named in memory of Sheyenne Marshall, a teenager who was killed by a drunk boater in 2015 on Lake Norman on the weekend of July Fourth. Sheyenne’s Law is progressive in deterring drunk boating and is long overdue. In a nutshell, Sheyenne’s Law strengthens the punishment for drunk boating in cases of serious injury or wrongful death. Now, drunk boaters who cause these kinds of accidents will face felony charges, instead of a misdemeanor.

The full title of the bill is “An Act to Provide an Increased Penalty for Impaired Boating Resulting in Death or Serious Injury and to Clarify the Penalty for Impaired Boating”. It is section 75A-10.3 of the North Carolina General Statutes. This law establishes five different levels of offenses:

  1. Death by Impaired Boating
  2. Serious Injury by Impaired Boating
  3. Aggravated Serious Injury by Impaired Boating
  4. Aggravated Death by Impaired Boating
  5. Repeat Death by Impaired Boating

Depending on the circumstances of the drunk boating accident, the liable party may face different kinds of penalties.

As with drunk driving offenses, the driver of the boat is violating the law if his/her blood alcohol concentration is .08 or more. This may take no more than two to three beers per hour. The limit applies to the operation of any vessel on the waters of this state. This includes not just sail and motor boats but also jet skis or other similar devices.

What are the Penalties of Drunk Boating?

Similar to our North Carolina drunk driving laws, the penalties for drunk boating are much harsher for more serious offenses. Aggravated and second impaired boating offenses carry the most stringent punishments. The charges a drunk boater may face for the five different levels of offenses, as defined by Sheyenne’s Law, are:

The penalties for drunk boating will also vary depending on the person’s prior criminal record, if any, as well as other potentially mitigating factors. However, while a criminal case and conviction may protect future boaters from serious injuries, it does not compensate victims for their injuries and damages. If a boat crash causes you serious injuries or a loved one’s wrongful death, then you must file a civil lawsuit to recover compensation. A North Carolina boating accident lawyer from our law firm can explain this process and represent your interests in a lawsuit.

Our Law Firm Has Experience with Drunk Boating Accidents and Injuries

The attorneys at Riddle & Brantley have successfully handled serious injury cases that resulted from boating accidents. For example, our managing partner and senior attorney, Gene Riddle, represented one case involving very serious drunk boating accident. This boat crash occurred at the beach in the Intracoastal Waterway. The boat owner and operator bought some beer and then took a few passengers on a joy ride. They all drank beer and rode on the boat in the waterway. The driver then hit an object in the water, causing a boat crash and injuries to everyone involved.

The fact that all passengers drank beer and also knew that the driver was drinking unfortunately complicated the case. The passengers consented to the driver drinking beer and so they assumed the risk of the driver potentially being impaired. Under North Carolina law, the passengers may have been contributorily negligent in their participation, which is a complete bar to any recovery.

The boat driver claimed that all parties contributed to the accident and therefore that the passengers could not recover compensation for their injuries. However, since the accident happened in the Intracoastal Waterway, the contributory negligence law in North Carolina did not apply. Thus, the passengers could recover for their injuries and did so. If this accident had happened on a lake in North Carolina, then the outcome may have been different. Therefore, we strongly recommend that all passengers treat boating like riding in cars; you should always refrain from riding with drivers who drink.

Questions? Contact a NC Boat Accident Lawyer from Our Firm Today

At Riddle & Brantley, we treat drunk boating cases just like drunk driving claims. If you or a family member suffered injuries in a boat crash, then contact our law firm today. A North Carolina boat accident lawyer from our team can listen to your story and explain your legal options. Whether your injuries happened on a North Carolina lake, river or the Atlantic Coast, our attorneys can help.

We have offices throughout North Carolina, in Goldsboro, Raleigh, Jacksonville and Kinston. Call (800) 525-7111 or contact us online to schedule your free initial consultation today.