Drinking while boating may become illegal

Posted at: 02/07/2013 5:09 PM
Updated at: 02/07/2013 5:26 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The crime of boating while intoxicated could soon get a lot more serious in the state of New Mexico.

State lawmakers are uniting behind a bill that carries a stiff penalty for the wrongdoers.

A drunk at the helm of a boat is at least as dangerous as a drunk behind the steering wheel of a car - why not make the penalties the same when somebody gets killed or badly injured in a accident involving a boat.

That's what the House of representatives had in mind Thursday when they voted unanimously to pass a bill that would make the penalty for a booze-soaked boating death the same as for a drunk driving fatality. That's a third degree felony, punishable by up to three years in prison. It's the same penalty if the accident causes great bodily harm.

Taxpayers say it's about time.

"Somebody who's operating a motor vehicle should have the same responsibility, no matter what the motor vehicle is," said Melanie Lopez-Trujillo of Rio Rancho, visiting the Capitol Thursday with a group of schoolchildren. "It doesn't matter if it's on land or water. The person should be held to the same accountability."

Darren Back, another Capitol visitor, agreed.

"If you have different categories for different types of things, you'll have people that'll ride on motorcycles and say it's not DWI - versus a car, versus a boat, versus something else," Back said. "If it's a motorized vehicle and you're drunk and you cause injury or death, I think it should be handled the same."

Homicide by boat, just like vehicular homicide, would establish increasing penalties for repeat offenders.

The bill now goes over to the state Senate where it is already a popular concept - a "no-brainer" as one lawmaker put it.