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New state boating while under the influence law takes effect

A new law has just taken effect here in North Carolina that will impose harsher penalties on people who operate boats under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The law, which became effective on Dec. 1, impacts anyone who injures or kills someone in a boating accident while operating the vessel under the influence. 

The legislation, which was signed this June by Gov. Pat McCrory, is named Sheyenne's Law in honor of a Concord, North Carolina, 17-year-old who died in a boating accident last year on Lake Norman.

The law brings boating under the influence penalties more in line with those for driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated. Previously, boating while under the influence was a misdemeanor. Now if a serious injury or fatality occurs because the operator of the boat was under the influence, that person can be charged with a felony.

As Gov. McCrory said after signing the bill this summer, it "cannot bring Sheyenne 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." 

One of the many advantages of living in North Carolina is the wealth of lakes and waterways available for sailing. On holiday weekends and during the summer, in particular, they are filled with local residents and tourists. Just as law enforcement officers are out in force on the roads during busy periods, they also have checkpoints at boating ramps. 

For many people, a day out on the water includes a few beers or bottles of wine. However, it's essential to know the laws involving drinking while on watercraft. If you are charged with operating a boat or other vessel on the water while under the influence, it's important to seek legal guidance.

Source: WXII 12 News, "Increased impaired boating penalties among 12 new NC laws," Dec. 02, 2016

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