Boating While Impaired (BWI)

Posted on: June 23rd, 2014 by The Rodzik Law Group

With summer in full swing, more and more boaters will soon be flocking to North Carolina’s waterways for days spent fishing, waterskiing, and more. With more than 37,000 miles of waterways in North Carolina, there is plenty to enjoy.

But unfortunately, along with all of the additional boaters, and the fact that so many boaters enjoy alcoholic beverages on their boats, comes an increased risk of being involved in a boating accident. Boating while impaired (BWI) is not uncommon, partly because most people aren’t aware that North Carolina does have laws related to drinking and boating. Here, our drunk driving attorney in Wilmington NC sheds some additional light on this important topic.

What is the Federal Boat Safety Act?

Boating while impaired is a serious criminal charge in the state of North Carolina and being charged with a BWI is a direct violation of the Federal Boat Safety Act. The Federal Boat Safety Act was enacted by Congress in 1971 to help reduce the number of boating accidents on America’s waterways. According to the law, operating a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol or after consuming enough alcohol to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or greater is prohibited. It is also illegal to surf or ski while intoxicated.

In North Carolina, being charged with a BWI is considered a class 2 misdemeanor and punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $1000 fine. A BWI conviction, however, does not currently affect the status of one’s driver’s license.

Who Can Make a BWI Arrest?

A BWI arrest can be made by the Coast Guard, state or local police officers, or North Carolina Wildlife Resource officers. Any of these law enforcement agencies can stop a boat if they have reasonable suspicion of intoxication. But, since there are no open-container laws on North Carolina’s waterways, simply having alcohol (beer or wine only, hard liquor is prohibited on all waterways) on board does not automatically constitute a BWI charge.

Unfortunately, unlike an individual who is pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, a suspected BWI does not have to comply with a blood alcohol level test request. If the boater does not comply with the test, the arresting officer will need a warrant in order to secure the test.


A BWI’s Impact on a North Carolina Driver’s License

As stated earlier, a BWI will not impact one’s driver’s license in North Carolina unless the license is already suspended for a DWI. In this case, the BWI will usually extend the duration of the suspension by an additional six months.

Call The Rodzik Law Group if You are Involved in a Boating Accident

If you are involved in boating accident that was caused by someone who was boating while intoxicated, call The Rodzik Law Group’s drunk driving attorney in Wilmington NC as soon as possible. You may be entitled to damages and other compensations.

For more information or to schedule a free initial consultation with one of The Rodzik Law Group’s experienced attorneys, please call us at 910-762-1199.


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