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Boating under the influence and North Carolina law

One of the advantages of living here in North Carolina is the abundance of beautiful coastal areas and lakes. For many North Carolinians, a day on a boat, whether off the Atlantic coast or elsewhere, involves alcohol. However, if you're the one operating the vessel, it's essential to realize that boating under the influence can be every bit as dangerous as driving under the influence. The legal penalties can also be serious.

In Dec. 2016, Sheyenne's Law went into effect. The purpose of the law was to better hold drunk boaters accountable when they harm or kill someone. Gov. Pat McCrory signed the law, named for a 17-year-old girl who was killed on the Fourth of July the previous year on Lake Norman. She was knee-boarding when she was struck by a boat operated by a man who was legally impaired. He reportedly had a .14 percent blood alcohol content.

Sheyenne's Law makes boating while intoxicated a felony rather than a misdemeanor if it causes serious injury or death. The specific circumstances help determine with which class of felony a person can be charged. After learning that boating while intoxicated was a misdemeanor, the girl's family set about fighting for a change in the law.

The man arrested in the teen's death pleaded no contest to charges of boating while intoxicated and a felony charge of involuntary manslaughter. He avoided jail time, but was placed on 30 months probation and had to pay the girl's funeral costs.

Whether you're charged with impaired driving or impaired boating, the consequences to your life can be substantial -- even if no one is harmed. That's why it's crucial that you don't face the justice system without experienced legal guidance.

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