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If you're a North Carolina boater, you might want to read this

What's the difference between the penalties imposed for a drunk driving versus a boating-while-impaired (BWI) conviction, respectively, in North Carolina?

Not so much anymore, in the wake of BWI-related legislation passed earlier this summer. Legions of boaters who like to relax on the state's varied waterways might want to take a moment to reflect on the particulars of a new law passed in late June.

Here's a real wake-up word to digest that will now attach for the first time to some drinking charges brought against boaters in the state: felony.

Until the new enactment was signed into law by Gov. Pat McGrory, serious injuries -- and even fatalities -- attributed on the water to the behaviors of impaired boaters were adjudged as misdemeanors.

Effective from December 1 of this year, that will no longer be the case.

And the consequences of statutory adjustment will be real and severe for North Carolina residents convicted of select BWI offenses.

Here are some specifics. If a boater is convicted of an on-the-water offense that did not yield any damage to another person or to any property, the resulting penalties will still be linked with a misdemeanor

Nonetheless, the fallout can be severe. Even a first-time misdemeanor BWI conviction can bring a fine and jail time, as well as community service and the pulling of a boating license.

And when a felony is slapped on an offender, the penalties are far more severe. When "great bodily injury" is involved, a defendant can face thousands of dollars in fines and, more importantly, a long incarceration period.

"With or without an accident," McGrory recently stated, "there's going to be a severe penalty when you're pulled over."

Given that, no boater in the state will want to see flashing lights on the water. And if they do, they might want to reasonably consider a prompt consultation with a proven criminal defense attorney who regularly protects the legal rights and interests of North Carolina residents in drinking-related cases.

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Law Office of Christopher A. Connelly
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Charlotte, NC 28204

Phone: 704-376-9376
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