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After fatality, state's impaired boating laws toughen up

Earlier this spring the North Carolina legislature cracked down on those who choose to drink while boating. In a unanimous House vote, they increased penalties for impaired boaters who wind up killing or harming another person.

The bill, known as House Bill 958, was passed in memory of Sheyenne Marshall, the teen from Cabarrus County who died in an accident caused by a drunken boater last summer on the 4th of July. The girl was kneeboarding behind a boat that was almost hit by the impaired boater. As he swerved to avoid colliding with the boat, he ran over the girl, killing her.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus.

North Carolina law presently classifies boating while impaired as a Class 2 misdemeanor. This bill implements upgraded felony offenses for those boaters who are impaired and who cause kill or seriously injure others. The upgrade now equalizes the penalties for those faced by impaired drivers.

The bill then proceeded to the Senate, where it also unanimously passed over the summer legislative session. On June 17, it was presented to the governor's office, and on June 27, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed the bill into law.

This new bill actually has some teeth to it, and scofflaws who maim and kill others due to being intoxicated out on the water will face far stiffer penalties now. But regardless of the outcome of any criminal charges stemming from boating accidents in North Carolina, those who have been injured due to another's negligence, and the survivors of those who were killed, can choose to pursue civil justice through the courts as well.

Source: WRAL, "House raises penalties for drunk boating," Laura Leslie, accessed July 29, 2016

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