In the state of North Carolina, the law prohibits operating a motorboat or vessel under the influence of drugs or alcohol. (N.C.G.S. § 75A-10) This violation is referred to as boating while impaired, or BUI, and has many similarities to North Carolina DWI convictions.

According to NC law, a person can be convicted of a BUI for

  • Operating a vessel while under the influence of an impairing substance
  • Having a BAC of 0.08 or more at any relevant time after boating

BUI is not limited to motorized boats. G.S. 75A-10 states that a person cannot manipulate any water skis, surfboards, nonmotorized vessel, or similar device while under the influence of an impairing substance.

Penalties

A North Carolina BUI will commonly be a class 2 misdemeanor and the sentence imposed by the court will depend on the offender’s criminal history. Generally, offenders face $250 to $1000 in fines and a maximum of 60 days in jail.

Sheyenne’s Law

In June of 2016, North Carolina enacted Sheyenne’s Law, which enhances the consequences for certain BUI offenses. The bill, named for 17-year-old Sheyenne Marshall, who was killed on Lake Norman by a drunken boater in 2015, was unanimously approved by the NC General Assembly and signed by then-governor Pat McCrory. It took effect on December 1, 2016.

Under Sheyenne’s Law, the new penalties for BUI are as follows:

  • Serious Injury by Impaired Boating: If serious injury is caused to another person, the BUI offender can be convicted of a class F felony, which carries a penalty of ten to 41 months in prison.
  • Aggravated Serious Injury by Impaired Boating: If serious injury is caused to another person and the BUI offender has had a BUI conviction within the past seven years, they can be convicted of a class E felony and receive 38 to 160 months in prison.
  • Death by Impaired Boating: If another person dies, the BUI offender can be convicted of a class D felony and receive 38 to 160 months in prison.
  • Aggravated Death by Impaired Boating: If another person dies and the BUI offender has been convicted of a BUI in the past seven years, the offender can be convicted of a class D felony and receive 64 to 160 months in prison.
  • Repeat Death by Impaired Boating: If a BUI offender causes the death of another person and has a prior conviction for Death by Impaired Boating, they can be convicted of a class B2 felony, which carries a penalty of 94 to 393 months in prison.
  • Along with imprisonment, a judge can impose a fine for a BUI involving injury or death.

In addition to following the rules and regulations regarding boating safety, remember to never drink while operating a boat. The safety of yourself, your passengers, and others on the lake are at stake.

If you have been charged with a BUI, contact the attorneys at SeiferFlatow as soon as possible.

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