New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation Tuesday that strengthens penalties for boating while intoxicating convictions by linking them to prior drunken driving offenses committed on roadways.
Before the new law was passed, there was no formal linkage between prior DWI or DWAI offenses with a BWI or BWAI offense, which made it impossible to convict someone as a repeat offender, according to the governor’s office.
The new law, called Tiffany Heitkamp’s Law, requires courts to consider prior DWI or DWAI convictions when sentencing a person for a boating while intoxicated or a boating while ability impaired conviction.
“Whether behind the wheel of a car or a boat, drunk drivers are a danger to themselves and a menace to others,” Cuomo said.
“This new law closes this loophole and will help keep these dangerous individuals off our roads and waterways, avoiding more senseless tragedies.”
Tiffany Heitkamp’s mother, MaryJo Heitkamp-France, pushed for the new law after her daughter was killed in July 2006 while in a boat operated by an intoxicated person with a history of alcohol-related auto accidents, officials said.
He was charged as if he had never been in trouble for drinking before.
Under the new law, a judge sentencing someone who would otherwise be facing a 30 days in jail must consider any prior boating or driving offenses within five years, and for a possible 180-day sentence, consider up to 10 years.
The sentencing judge would be required to impose a higher sentence.