Why Call Randall & Stump?
When the weather is warm, there is no better way to spend a day than out on the water. During the spring, summer, and fall, Charlotte-area residents and visitors frequent Lake Norman, Lake Wylie, Mountain Island Lake, Lake Hickory, and nearby rivers.
Unfortunately, a day of fun can quickly turn into a nightmare if law enforcement officers believe you consumed excess alcohol while out on the boat. If officers believe you to be impaired while operating a boat or other water vessel, you will be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor offense. In North Carolina, those accused of boating while impaired (BWI) can face consequences that are just as serious as those for driving while impaired (DWI).
If you have been charged with a BWI, speak to one of our Charlotte criminal attorneys at (980) 237-4579 so that we can begin aggressively defending your rights. Catching mistakes early can significantly help your defense. Contact us today for help.
Do You Need a Lawyer?
Yes. People often face a misdemeanor and think they can handle it themselves or with a public defender. While misdemeanors are generally considered less serious than felonies, they need to be addressed just as thoroughly. You still face a permanent criminal record, incarceration, fines, and other consequences if you are convicted of a misdemeanor offense in North Carolina.
The best thing to do is to hire a BWI lawyer in Charlotte as soon as possible. Take a BWI charge seriously and hire an attorney to fight for the best possible outcome in your case. At Randall & Stump, PLLC, we will focus on helping you avoid charges altogether. The prosecutor may agree to drop the charges, or we may win a motion to dismiss. If the charges move forward, our priority will shift toward winning an acquittal (not guilty verdict).
We are well versed in reviewing the facts and finding the weaknesses in BWI cases. It is the prosecutor’s responsibility to prove you committed the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. We do not make it easy for them. Instead, we seek to show there are doubt and insufficient evidence to justify a conviction.
The Benefits of Hiring Randall & Stump, PLLC
Our Charlotte lawyers at Randall & Stump, PLLC, have decades of combined experience. Some of us have worked on both sides of the courtroom. Our experience as prosecuting crimes helps us understand and predict the prosecutor’s motivations and plans. It gives us a leg up in pursuing the best possible outcome in your case, whether that is getting the charges dropped, winning an acquittal, or mitigating the consequences of a conviction.
If our years of experience are not enough to get you to pick up the phone, look at our case results. We routinely get misdemeanor charges dropped or dismissed for our clients. Though we cannot guarantee a specific outcome to your case, we can assure you that we know how to handle BWI matters and fight for the best result.
Boating While Impaired in NC
Under NCGS §75A-10(b1), no one shall operate a vessel on the water while under the influence of an impairing substance or after consuming sufficient alcohol that the person has, at any relevant time after boating, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.
Does it Have To Be a Motorboat?
No. It is essential to understand that you do not have to be in a motorboat to be cited for BWI. If the object floats (canoe, water skis, rowboat, etc.), and you are the person in control of it, you can be charged with BWI.
Consequences of a BWI
A BWI is a Class 2 misdemeanor and can carry up to 60 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. The collateral consequences of a conviction can include damage to your reputation, loss of your job, and an increase in, or loss of, your insurance coverage.
Differences Between BWI and DWI Cases
We do not handle BWI cases the same way we handle DWI cases. That is because the law and procedures are different. When dealing with a BWI, make sure to hire a lawyer who has dealt with these cases before. We know how to thoroughly review the facts and devise a strong defense against BWI charges.
Stops by Law Enforcement
A significant difference between a BWI and DWI is that law enforcement officers, whether from the North Carolina Wildlife Commission, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, or Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Department, do not need probable cause to stop a boat or other water vessel. Probable cause is the belief that a crime has been or will be committed based on observable facts. Instead, law enforcement can stop a vessel or boat under the guise of a “safety check.”
No Implied Consent
Another critical difference is that you do not have to submit to a breath test or field sobriety tests when stopped for BWI. A BWI is not an “implied consent” law like a DWI. You can refuse a breath or other test without fear of civil consequences, like losing your license.
Fighting Field Sobriety Tests
A field sobriety test is an exercise an officer may ask you to complete that displays your mental and physical awareness and abilities. Common Standardized Field Sobriety Tests like the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), in which the officer has you follow a moving object with your eyes are validated for on-shore use. Other common SFSTs are the walk-and-turn and one-leg stand tests.
However, there are other FSTs that may be used afloat, including:
- The Alphabet Test
- The 25 to 1 County
- The Finger Count
- The Palm Pat
- The Finger to Nose
All of these tests are highly questionable and can result in inaccurate results easily, especially on the water and/or at night. We will determine all of the reasons that you may not have had perfect results (illness, medications, ear infection, balance issues, mental disorders, and more), and we will use all of this information to challenge the State’s evidence against you,
Fighting Breath Test Results
The Intoxilyzer, Intox EC/IR-II, or another breath machine can be attacked more often in BWI cases because it is not given the same weight as during a DWI. As a result, a dismissal or a reduction of the charges may be possible given the facts of your case.
Was Someone Hurt in a BWI Accident?
If you are accused of causing a severe accident while operating a vessel while impaired, you might face felony charges. It is essential to call an experienced BWI accident lawyer in Charlotte, North Carolina, right away.
Under NCGS §75A-10.3, you can be charged with a felony for unintentionally causing:
- Death of another person
- Serious injury to another person
- Serious injury to another person during a second or subsequent BWI offense
- Death of another person during a second or subsequent BWI offense
- Death of another person during a second or subsequent fatal BWI
Causing someone serious injury in a BWI accident is a Class F or Class E felony, depending on whether you have a previous BWI offense on your record. Causing another person’s death is a Class D felony. However, if you previously caused someone’s death in a BWI, you will face a Class B2 felony.