New bill links boating while intoxicated to DWI offenses for harsher penalties

Sen. David Carlucci and Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, at podium, sponsor a bill that would link boating and driving while intoxicated offenses so that judges can administer harsher penalties for repeat offenses. The law is named after Bryan Johnson, who died in a 2012 incident.

With boating season in full force, Sen. David Carlucci, D-New City, has introduced a bill that would require judges to take prior convictions for boating while intoxicated into account when sentencing for a DWI offense.

“Bryan Johnson’s Law” (S.6832) would require judges to treat BWI convictions the same as a prior DWI conviction when determining a sentence.

The bill is named after Bryan Johnson, a 26-year-old Ossining resident, who drowned in 2012 after jumping off a boat into the Long Island Sound. Johnson’s classmate, who was driving the boat, decided to play a “prank” and pulled away from the swimmers. By the time he returned to the area, Johnson had drowned. media reports do not indicate whether the driver was intoxicated at the time of the incident.

Repeat offenders of boating while intoxicated (BWI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI) laws are subject to increased
penalties including revocation of their licenses, large fines and possible jail time. However, because there is no linkage in statute between these offenses, it is possible to get convicted of both a BWI and a DWI and have them both considered “first time offenses.”

Several cases have occurred where a DWI offense has been committed, causing injury and damage losses to others, by a person who also had a BWI conviction, according to the bill’s memo.

This legislation would require a sentencing judge in a DWI case to consider past BWI offenses, with a 25-year lookback.

Bryan Johnson’s Law would link BWI’s and DWI’s and require that judges treat a BWI as a repeat offense when considering a DWI sentence.

The bill would direct judges to impose higher sentences if a repeat offenses are found in an individual’s criminal record.

Carlucci has introduced previous boating safety bills and pushed to officially rename an Ossining boat ramp the Bryan J. Johnson Memorial Boat Ramp.

Bryan Johnson’s mother, Sheila Lilley, has become an outspoken advocate for boating safety and has joined Carlucci as he pushes for more legislation.

Bryan Johnson, courtesy of his family

In 2013, Carlucci and Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, D-Ossining, introduced legislation requiring all motorboat operators born after May 1, 1996, take a safety course and get certified. Bryan Johnson’s family helped Carlucci and Galef push lawmakers to support the bill. The law was enacted in 2014.

“This has been a long and emotional journey for the family of Bryan Johnson and the countless advocates who believe more must be done to prevent future tragedies from occurring in the first place,” said Carlucci in 2013. “ New York will now be among the leaders across the nation who understand the dangers of operating a vessel without proper training.”

Carlucci introduced “Bryan Johnson’s Law” this year to mark the fifth anniversary of Johnson’s death. On June 24, Carlucci and Galef gathered with Johnson’s family and friends on the Bryan J. Johnson Memorial Boat Ramp to announce the introduction of the new bill.

“Five years ago this week we lost Bryan Johnson to a boating accident. Today we marked that occasion with family members who fought hard to turn tragedy into something positive by helping pass boater safety course requirements,” wrote Carlucci in a Facebook post. “Today Sandy Galef and I introduced legislation to increase water safety by linking DWI with boating while intoxicated violations. This summer, don’t leave your common sense on land, don’t drink and boat.”

The bill was referred to the Rules Committee on July 5.