Q: How are boating "DUIs" handled in NY?
A: Boating “DUIs” are handled under a legislative framework similar to that for vehicular DUIs on the state's roadways. Operating a vessel in New York under the influence of alcohol or drug is subject to criminal prosecution that can carry prison terms, penalties, and fines. For these offenses, the terms BWI (Boating While Intoxicated) and BWAI (Boating While Ability Impaired) are used. The offenses are distinguished from one another by a defendant's blood alcohol level (BAC). Statutory BAC levels are outlined in the state’s navigation laws (New York Consolidated Laws, Navigation Law - NAV § 49-a. Operation of a Vessel While Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs). BWI is based upon higher BACs than BWAI. In addition to blood alcohol levels, the statute looks at past violations within a given time period. The statute also addresses legal presumptions that arise in terms of what blood alcohol levels constitute prima facie evidence for a prosecutor and what blood alcohol levels constitute relevant evidence. Federal laws can also apply, as vessels are subject to boarding by personnel from federal agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard as well as local police and other agencies. If the vessel operator is involved in a boating accident, then similar to DUI charges in motor vehicle accidents, evidence of the BWI or BWAI charges would be relevant in determining liability.
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