For many, the ideal means of relaxation and recreation is spending a summer day on the high seas. However, some neglect the risks that come with driving a boat under the influence of alcohol and drugs. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol use was a contributing factor in 306 boating accidents last year, 122 of which resulted in fatalities. Recently, New York passed a bill that will take prior drinking and driving convictions into consideration while imposing penalties for boating while intoxicated, regardless of what kind of vehicle was involved — boat, car or snowmobile.
Tiffany Heitkamp's Law was passed following the death of a 20-year-old Syracuse woman who was killed in a 2006 accident when the speeding boat she was a passenger on crashed. Keir Weimer, the driver of the boat, was intoxicated, and had two previous drunk driving arrests in a motor vehicle. Mr. Weimer could not be charged as a repeat offender in the trial for the death of Ms. Heitkamp because his prior driving while intoxicated offenses happened in a car rather than a boat. Mr. Weimer pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to 2 to 6 years.
Since then, New York State Senator John DeFrancisco, with the assistance of Ms. Heitkamp's mother, have been advocating for a New York law that would require judges to take past drunk driving offenses into consideration when deciding the length of the sentence. With the passing of this legislation earlier this month, a judge may implement stricter penalties upon sentencing, including larger fines and possible imprisonment.
If you or a loved one has been injured or a loved one has been killed in a boating accident, please contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Sakkas, Cahn & Weiss, LLP. For a free initial consultation, please contact Sakkas, Cahn & Weiss, LLP today by calling (212) 571-7171.