Boating While Intoxicated Lawyer

June 21, 2024


New York Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) Lawyer

Every driver should be aware of New York’s DWI (driving while intoxicated) charge, and the penalties upon conviction for this charge.  Nearly every driver is aware of the DWI charge, many may not know about the many related charges. New York law defines many DWI-related charges, including charges related to impairment by alcohol or drugs while driving, and operating different types of motor vehicles while impaired or intoxicated. One such related charge that every boater should know about is Boating While Intoxicated (“BWI”).

Boating While Intoxicated Defined

The basic DWI charge, called a “per se” DWI, applies to drivers who operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08% or more. That BAC threshold is the legal standard for intoxication in New York, as well as in all other states. This means that a driver with a BAC of at least 0.08% is legally considered intoxicated. Penalties upon conviction for a DWI could include jail time, steep fines, or lengthy driver’s license revocation.

Similar to the per se DWI definition, Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) applies to boat operators with a BAC of at least 0.08%. The New York DMV considers boats to be vehicles, and so boat operators are subject to DWI-like laws. Unfortunately, many boaters are charged with a BWI each year, probably without even being aware they broke the law. In each BWI case, prosecutors must prove that the boat operator was actually intoxicated at the time of operation.  Intoxication is proven by establishing that the boater had a BAC of at least 0.08%, and by other evidence of intoxication.

BWI Penalties

Of course, the best way to avoid a BWI is to not drink while boating. However, if you have been charged with a BWI, you should understand the potential penalties you will face. A BWI conviction is a misdemeanor conviction that will result in a permanent criminal record. On top of the conviction and the criminal record, a boater convicted of BWI could face:

  • Up to 1 year in jail;
  • A maximum fine of $1,000; and
  • All privileges to operate a boat revoked for up to 1 year.

The penalties upon conviction are steep, so it is important for anyone charged with BWI to fully understand their legal options. In some cases, prosecutors’ evidence may be flawed, or they may be willing to negotiate a plea deal for a lesser charge.  An experienced BWI lawyer should be able to identify each situation, and to use these factors to your benefit while handling your BWI case.

Hire DWI-Focused Firm, Nave DWI Defense Attorneys

If you or someone you know has been charged with a BWI, DWI, or any related charge, contact the lawyers at Nave DWI Defense Attorneys today.Our firm handles only DWI and related cases, and this focus greatly benefits our clients.  With our extensive training, years of legal practice, and expertise in the field, the experienced New York DWI lawyers at DWI Team Defense Attorneys can help you, too. We aggressively defend every client, and have successfully represented thousands of New York drivers, boaters, and snowmobile operators.  For more information about your legal options, contact us online now for a free case evaluation.

Additional Boating While Intoxicated News

Take a moment and read through some relevant news stories relates to boating while intoxicate stories throughout New York State.

Summer Weather Attracts Boaters, Increased Patrols

With summer around the corner, boating season will soon be in full swing. While boating enthusiasts can’t wait to get on the water, law enforcement officers in New York are ramping up efforts to prevent and detect boat operators who drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, violating DWI laws.

News 12 Long Island reports that law enforcement officers in Suffolk County are undergoing intense training to detect both drunken automobile drivers and drunken boaters. The training includes the imbibing of alcohol by civilian volunteers to simulate real life BWI or DWI scenarios. The training also includes blood alcohol testing training. From this training program, it appears that Suffolk County officers anticipate an active, and potentially rowdy, boating season.

Under New York Law, Boating While Intoxicated, or “BWI,” offenses are serious. In fact, BWI charges are penalized in the same manner as DWI or DWAI charges. According to the New York State Boater’s Guide, a boat operator is considered legally intoxicated if his or her BAC is 0.08 or higher. This is the same standard established under the law for motor vehicle drivers. While penalties are a bit lighter in the case of a boat operator’s refusal to submit to a chemical test, BWI laws include New York’s “Zero Tolerance” rule, as well as aggravating factors and laws pertaining to multiple convictions.

While at first it may seem like BWI charges would be few and far between, in reality, drinking while boating is not uncommon. Furthermore, operating a boat while intoxicated, or being a passenger, presents unique hazards.

A case from last summer illustrates these points. CBS New York reported in July, 2012 that a Seaford, New York man was out on a fishing trip with two friends when, at some point, he became intoxicated. He was the driver of the boat, but he went into the boat’s cabin and closed the doors to talk on his cellphone. While he was in the cabin, one of his friends was thrown from the boat and ended up in the water. His other friend jumped in after the man. After several minutes, the intoxicated boat operator realized that his friends were overboard and called for help. Luckily, lifeguards on the nearby Jones Beach rowed out to the men who had gone overboard and saved them. When police arrived at the scene, they determined that the operator was intoxicated and arrested him.

High Profile BWI Charges

Summertime boating is a pastime that most Americans enjoy. Being out on the water can be peaceful, playful, and sometimes a party. Drinking is also a pastime that many Americans enjoy, especially with cool drinks on a hot summer day. With the summer heating up, boat drivers should be aware that if they mix drinking with boating, they may face DWI charges.

DWI laws relating to drinking and boating were in the spotlight this week when high-profile activist Erin Brokovich was charged with BWI in Las Vegas. Yahoo News reports from an Associated Press article that Ms. Brokovich was boating with her husband on the Colorado River reservoir when she attempted to moor her 26-foot Cobra motor boat. A Nevada game warden stated that Ms. Brokovich was arguing with her husband when she threw a cell phone into the water, and then had difficulty mooring the boat at the Las Vegas Boat Harbor. In fact, Ms. Brokovich had so much difficulty mooring the boat that the game warden himself had to help her dock it. Ms. Brokovich was administered two breathalyzer tests to determine intoxication, and it they measured her blood-alcohol level at two times the legal limit of 0.08%.

Ms. Brokovich was ultimately charged with misdemeanor operating a boat while intoxicated. Under Nevada law, Ms. Brokovich could face a 6 month jail sentence, a $1,000 fine and 96 hours of community service and counseling. Ms. Brokovich released a statement in which she apologized, and noted that there was no safety risk since she was driving close to the dock.

Unfortunately, BWI incidents can be a lot more tragic, and a lot more lethal, than in Ms. Brokovich’s case. In the summer of 2006, New York State experienced a deadly BWI accident that occurred on the Fourth Lake, near Old Forge. According to and, 24-year-old Keir Weimer, of Pompey, was operating a ski boat on Fourth Lake when he crashed into Alger Island Campground. The boat flew into the air more than 150 feet and then struck a lean-to, which was unoccupied at the time. Four passengers were injured in the crash, and one passenger, 20-year-old Tiffany Heitkamp, was killed. Mr. Weimer had left the scene of the crash to go to his family’s camp on another Island. Troopers found Mr. Weimer leaving the water, and he initially denied that he had been driving the boat. Mr. Weimer’s BAC was determined at the time to be .10%, and police later learned that Mr. Weimer and the passengers had been drinking at a nearby bar before the accident. Mr. Weimer had been convicted two times prior for drunk driving, and was out on a pending DWI charge. However, under the law at the time, those charges could not be considered in his sentencing for the boating accident.

Mr. Weimer was ultimately sentenced to two six-year sentences in the boating accident that led to Ms. Heitkamp’s death. He was later charged with DWI in an unrelated incident, and received a one year sentence to run concurrently with the two six year sentences. Mr. Weimer was also assessed fines and his license was revoked.

Boat Crash Leads To Teen’s BWI Charge

During the warm summer months, more and more boat enthusiasts voyage to the waterways to have fun while afloat. Unfortunately, drinking alcohol can often turn a fun boat outing into a dangerous situation.

As reported by, that was the case when Tyler J. Ocwieja (19 of Webster, New York) allegedly crashed the boat he operated into a Sodus Bay break wall after a fireworks show. According to police, Mr. Ocwieja operated the boat while intoxicated (BWI). He suffered minor injuries from the accident.

There were also three passengers aboard the vessel. Two passengers – Michael Dodge (19 of Webster, New York) and Nicholas Pizzicuto (19 of Rochester, New York) did not suffer any injuries. A third individual – Liam Wheatley (18 of Penfield, New York) was tossed out of the boat over the break wall. Medical personnel treated him for an ankle injury and transported him to the hospital.

Mr. Ocwieja was charged with BWI, refusal to submit to an initial breath test, reckless operation and endangerment as well as speeding near the shore. He is set to appear in Sodus Town Court at a future date.

Coast Guard Conducts Safety Checks

A recent story by CBS New York highlighted the U.S. Coast Guard’s ramped up efforts to ensure that boaters are safe on the waters this summer season. The Coast Guard conducts safety checks making sure that boaters have the appropriate safety equipment (e.g., life jackets, flares and fire extinguishers) aboard. They are also looking for anyone that may be boating under the influence of alcohol.

According to the Coast Guard – the leading cause of boating accident deaths is alcohol-related. Last year there were over 4,500 boating accidents. Of those, there were over 650 deaths and 3,000 injuries.

In New York State, the breath alcohol content (BAC) limit for a boater to be considered intoxicated is 0.08 percent for adults, 0.04 percent for commercial boat operators and 0.02 percent for minors (those under the age of 21). The consequences of boating while intoxicated are similar to driving while intoxicated (DWI) laws and include: monetary penalties, incarceration and a possible loss of the privilege to boat.

The Coast Guard will continue to conduct safety checks throughout the summer boating season.

A BWI is Just a DWI on the Water

Spring is here, and that means warm weather is right around the corner. With this welcomed increase in temperatures comes the desire to get outside and have some fun, especially for those who live near water and enjoy sports like fishing and boating. Throughout the spring and summer, many folks will find themselves on the lakes, rivers, and other waterways, communing with nature and enjoying fellowship and fun. Unfortunately, many of these outings will also include alcohol. While there may be nothing wrong with enjoying a couple of drinks while out on the water, it is important to remember that a “couple of drinks” can quickly turn into a party, resulting in drinking too much. And since intoxication is very much dependent on your body chemistry and other factors such as weight, gender, dehydration, and food, even a small amount of alcohol can prove to be a little too much.

Alcohol affects the brain, changing the way our bodies react. It lowers response time and reflexes as well as reasoning and inhibitions. Even a small amount of alcohol can have such effects, and this can lead to poor choices and accidents. What starts out as a day of fun with friends and family can end in disaster without much provocation simply because alcohol was involved.

Many people do not think of boating when they think of DWIs and alcohol-related incidents. However they can be extremely dangerous, especially given the presence of water. With risks of injury, drowning, death, and property damage, boating and alcohol is not the best mix. And with these risks comes the added risk of legal trouble… a situation everyone can agree they would prefer to avoid.

While Navigational Laws vary slightly from those governing DWI and Traffic Laws, there is a progressive movement to align some aspects of these laws for the protection of those using our waterways. Formerly lax in nature, New York State has, in recent years, made changes to Navigational Laws in order to crack down on boating while intoxicated. The BAC threshold is .08 percent, the same as for a Watertown DWI. A mere first offense, a misdemeanor, can result in up to one year in jail, and a $1,000 fine. A second offense within a decade is a Class E Felony.

Warmer weather brings outdoor fun, and if you plan to hit the water, practice caution and avoid excessive alcohol use. This could prevent accidents, save lives, and help you to avoid unwanted legal problems as well.

DISCLAIMER: The exclusive purpose of this article is educational and it is not intended as either legal advice or a general solution to any specific legal problem.  Corporate offices for Nave DWI Defense Attorneys are located at 432 N. Franklin Street, Suite 80, Syracuse, NY 13204; Telephone No.: 1-866-792-7800.  Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.  Attorney Advertising.

62/62 Counties Covered.

Serving all of
Upstate NY.

See why no one defends you like us.
Get your free case analysis.
Get your free case analysis.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.