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The General Assembly has strengthened penalties for boat operators under the influence of alcohol who accidentally injure or kill another person on the water.
Governor Pat McCrory signed “Sheyenne’s Law” (House Bill 958) late last month, making the penalties for impaired boaters who cause injuries or fatalities similar to those for impaired motorists. Right now, the penalty for drunk boating carries a misdemeanor charge and a minimum $250 fine. The law, which becomes effective December 1, 2016, will increase the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony, punishable by a minimum of nearly three years in prison. The bipartisan legislation received unanimous support in both chambers of the General Assembly.
House Bill 958 was named in honor of Sheyenne Marshall, a Concord, NC teen and a senior at Cox Mill High School, who was tragically killed in a boating accident by a drunk boat operator last year during the Fourth of July weekend. It is reported that in 2015, 25 people died due to boating-related accidents in North Carolina and nearly half of those fatalities involved alcohol.
During a bill signing ceremony on June 27, Governor McCrory was joined by students, teachers, elected officials and Sheyenne Marshall’s family at Cox Mill High School. “This bill cannot bring Sheyenne back to us,” Governor McCrory said, “but it can help save others by sending a strong message that drunk driving in a boat is just as dangerous as in a car. With summer here and millions of people flocking to our state’s lakes and beaches, I want to remind everyone not to drink and drive.”