August 16, 2016
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Signs "Tiffany Heitkamp's" Law Strengthening Penalties for Boating While Intoxicated Offenses

TOP Governor Cuomo Signs "Tiffany Heitkamp&...


Legislation Links Prior DWIs and DWAIs to BWIs and BWAIs to Provide Harsher Penalties for Repeat Offenders

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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed “Tiffany Heitkamp’s” Law, legislation that strengthens penalties for boating while intoxicated offenses by linking them to prior drinking while driving offenses involving a vehicle. The bill (A.1597-A/S.3785-A) requires courts to consider prior Driving While Intoxicated or Driving While Ability Impaired convictions when sentencing a person for Boating While Intoxicated or Boating While Ability Impaired.

“Whether behind the wheel of a car or a boat, drunk drivers are a danger to themselves and a menace to others,” Governor Cuomo said. “This new law closes this loophole and will help keep these dangerous individuals off our roads and waterways, avoiding more senseless tragedies.”

Under current law, there is no linkage between prior DWI and DWAI offenses and BWI offenses. This makes it impossible to convict an individual as a repeat offender, despite prior violations of similar laws. The bill addresses this gap by linking these similar offenses and providing harsher penalties for repeat offenders

Specifically, this measure requires that a court sentencing an individual for a BWI carrying a 30-day sentence must consider any prior DWIs or DWAIs by the same individual within a five-year period. When sentencing for a BWAI carrying a 180-day sentence, the court must consider prior DWIs or DWAIs within a 10 year period. This change would require a sentencing judge to impose a higher sentence on those who repeatedly get behind the wheel in an intoxicated state, regardless of whether it is a car or a boat.

Senator John A. DeFrancisco said, "When someone has a history of operating a vehicle or vessel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, that record should be taken into account when the individual is sentenced. Repeat offenders should be held accountable for their history of dangerous actions to help deter further tragedies. I am very pleased that Governor Cuomo has signed this important bill into law to help improve the safety of our roadways and waterways. I also would like to commend MaryJo Heitkamp-France on her advocacy to help get this bill passed."

Assemblyman William Magnarelli said, “I want to thank Governor Cuomo for signing this important bill into law. It will honor the memory of Tiffany Heitkamp by requiring that judges take into account past DWI convictions when sentencing those convicted of Boating While Intoxicated. It will further deter those who repeatedly violate NY’s intoxicated operation laws. I also want to thank Ms. MaryJo Heitkamp-France for her tireless advocacy on behalf this legislation in memory of her daughter. This new law would not have happened without her efforts. I hope it will honor Tiffany’s memory and save lives on our waterways.”

The “Tiffany Heitkamp” bill was named after a young Syracuse-area woman who was killed in July 2006 while traveling as a passenger in a boat operated by an intoxicated person. The individual operating the boat had a record of alcohol-related automobile incidents. However, because there was no link between prior convictions for Boating While Intoxicated, he could only be charged as if this was his first BWI. 

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