By Justin DiGennaro
Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano announced today that “If you are intoxicated, and you choose to operate a boat, we are going to put you away.”
In a press conference at Wantagh Park, Mangano expressed his support for New York State legislation introduced by Senator Charles Fuschillo Jr. (R-Merrick) that would increase the penalties for operating a boat under the influence of alcohol and mandate that all boating operators take a state sanctioned course in boating safety prior to hitting the water.
“Boats operated by intoxicated individuals are as dangerous a weapon as cars driven by drunk drivers. Right now, our laws do not reflect this fact and it must change,” Fuschillo stated. “Strong BUI laws will make people think twice before operating a boat under the influence, help remove intoxicated boat operators from waterways, and ensure that they face tougher penalties for endangering the lives of others.”
This legislation comes in the wake of an accident this past June, in which West Islip resident Christopher Mannino was killed by an intoxicated operator driving his speedboat at speeds upwards of 100 MPH. Although the individual was arrested and charged, Mannino’s wife Michelle, Senator Fuschillo, and County Executive Mangano all emphasized the need to strengthen laws against BUI to discourage this sort of irresponsible behavior in the future.
“The public needs to realize that if you drink and drive a boat, you are putting other people’s lives in danger,” Michelle Mannino said. “I don’t have my husband now because a selfish carless person found it necessary to be intoxicated on the water and take his life”
Senator Fuschillo’s bill would work to address many of the long overdue safety concerns that came to light after this tragedy. New York has some of the toughest DUI laws in the country, but BUI laws simply have not kept pace. Since the start of the season, Nassau County police have made 5 BWI arrests and issued 504 summonses. Summonses are up 80% from last year.
Under this new bill, all individuals who wish to operate a boat will be forced to take a boating safety course prior to their licensing. Prosecutors will be able to try intoxicated boaters with a child on board as a class E felony. It creates the charge of aggravated BUI for boaters with a BAC of.18 or higher, just as currently exists for DUI, with stiffer sentences. It mandates the suspension of driving and boating privileges for those individuals who are indeed convicted, and links DUIs, BUIs, and SUIs (Snowmobiling under the Influence) for the purposes of repeat offenders. Now, an individual with a DUI on their record can be prosecuted as a repeat alcohol offender if they are pulled over for operating a boat while intoxicated. .
“Look into the eyes of these children who have lost their father. The eyes of this wife who lost her husband, and the eyes of this mother who lost her son,” Mangano said. “There should be no delay in passing this law to ensure that something like this does not happen again.”