A new law that targets people who are under the influence while boating went into effect in North Carolina December 1st. Sheyenne’s Law will change the criminal felony classification of boating while impaired and toughen penalties for conviction.
The law was named after Sheyenne Marshall who was killed on July 4, 2015, by a drunk boater on Lake Norman in Mooresville, NC. The young victim, who was just 17-years-old when she was killed, was riding a kneeboard when a boat slammed into her. The driver of the boat, a then 49-year-old Mooresville man, had a blood alcohol content of 0.14 when the crash happened. The legal limit in North Carolina, as for the rest of the country, is 0.08. He was charged with involuntary manslaughter charge and is awaiting trial. Based on the law at the time the victim was killed, the involuntary manslaughter charge was only a Class F felony, and if convicted, he will only face a maximum of 16 months in jail.
Under the new law, boating while impaired has been changed from a misdemeanor to a felony. The class of felony – and resulting penalty – will be based on the driver and specifics of the case. A conviction under the current law means a fine of up to $250. A conviction under the new law means up to three years in prison. The new law also strengthens penalties for impaired boat operators who accidentally injure or kill another person.
The law was passed in June and signed by the governor just shy of the one-year anniversary of the boating crash that claimed the victim’s life. At the time of signing, the governor pointed out that 25 people had been killed in boating accidents last year, and that more than half of those accidents were caused by boaters who were under the influence of alcohol.
Regardless of the outcome of any criminal case against a boat operator who causes a crash that results in the injury or death of victims, North Carolina law says that operator is responsible for keeping people safe and can be held liable for those injuries or loss of life. Victims and their families of boating accidents should contact a skilled North Carolina boating accident attorney to find out what legal recourse they have.