Penalties will be tougher for boating under the influence if a death occurs, under a bill signed into law by Governor Corbett. House Bill 78 amends the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Code to bring penalties for homicide by watercraft while operating under the influence in line with driving under the influence.
The new law makes the offense a second degree felony and increases the maximum penalty.
Representative Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre) sponsored the bill after a 12-year-old girl was killed on the Susquehanna River in a boating collision two years ago. The boater convicted in the incident had several prior DUI offenses. Benninghoff says the new law also allows previous DUI convictions to be factored in when someone is charged with boating under the influence.
Benninghoff says the law also provides that consecutive sentences of three years each be imposed for each victim killed in a boating collision where the operator was intoxicated.
He says the goal of the bill is to bring parity in Pennsylvania’s DUI laws. He says the penalty should not be less severe if you’re not in a motor vehicle.
Benninghoff says they’re trying to send a strong message that people can face the same price whether it’s on land or sea if they do not drink responsibly.