What happens if I get a boating ticket in New York?
Many people think that they can do things like drinking alcohol while operating their boat without suffering any consequences, but this is wrong! Many of the same laws apply on the waterways that apply on the roadways, including laws concerning speeding, unlicensed operation, and drugs and alcohol.
SpeedingSpeeding laws are strictly enforced by the Coast Guard and Bay Constables out on the water because of the dangers that result from speeding, such as wakes in heavily trafficked waters. No Wake Zones impose a 5 mph speed limit on all boats - these usually are in place in areas such as canals where the passageway is narrow and the wake caused by boats can send other boats careening into the walls. The 5 mph speed limit also applies to 100-200ft off the shore, docks, pier, rafts, floats, and anchored boats. In addition, Long Island waters have 45 mph and 25 mph speed limits for the daytime and nighttime, respectively. Some local municipalities set their own speed limits and in areas without a posted speed limit, boaters must operate in a manner that does not endanger others out on the water. Boaters are also responsible for any damage caused by their wakes. Just like on the roads and highways, boaters can receive speeding tickets from the Coast Guard or Bay Constables if they violate the speeding laws.
Unlicensed OperationIn New York, drivers must possess a driver's license or a permit in order to operate an automobile. The rule is very similar for boats: all individuals born after 5/1/1996 must successfully complete an approved course in boater education in order to operate a boat. After completing the safety course, boaters will receive a boating safety certificate that they must have on them anytime they operate a boat. New York has made this a little bit easier on boaters as they can now have the safety certificate displayed on their driver's license or state issued ID as an anchor icon. If convicted of operating a boat without a safety certificate, boaters can be fined anywhere from $100 to $250 for the first offense and, while not likely, can face jail time of no more than 7 days. The fines and penalties increase for subsequent offenses. Driving a motor vehicle in New York without a license can result in a misdemeanor charge if convicted and can also bring about heavy fines and penalties.
DWI / BWINew York has BWI laws - Boating While Intoxicated. Most of the same rules apply to BWI as Driving While Intoxicated - boaters cannot have a Blood Alcohol Level higher than .08, and if convicted, they may be subject to fines, penalties, and the possibility of jail time. A person can also lose their boat operating privileges if convicted of BWI, though they will not lose their driving privileges. Marine officers making a BWI stop often use the same tactics and equipment to make as they would in a DWI stop, including a field sobriety test and a chemical test. If a boater refuses a chemical test, their boating privileges can be immediately suspended pending a hearing regarding the refusal. This is the same thing for drivers, as they must attend a Refusal Hearing if they do not submit to a chemical test administered by a police officer. New York has an "Implied Consent" law, which means that drivers and boaters alike give up their right to refuse a chemical test by getting behind the wheel of a car or a boat. BWI convictions range from misdemeanors to felonies for repeat offenders and could end up costing thousands of dollars in fines and fees.
Reckless OperationA reckless driving conviction in New York carries heavy fines, a penalty of 5 points on your license, and the possibility of losing your driver's license. A reckless driving conviction will also give you a criminal record because it is a misdemeanor offense. The same is true for the boating equivalent - reckless operation. Reckless operation covers a lot of different boating violations, including speeding in a crowded area, operating too close to swimmers or dams, overloading a boat, riding the wake in a dangerous area, and disrupting regattas or parades. Just like in a motor vehicle, reckless operation can have dangerous consequences for boaters and their passengers, so please obey all rules of the water.