The law in North Carolina prohibits you from operating a boat if you are impaired by alcohol or drugs. Boating while impaired (BWI) is treated seriously in this state, and if you are charged with BWI, you must be defended by an experienced Winston-Salem DWI attorney.

In fact, you’ll need to speak with the legal team at LAWSMITH, the Law Offices of J. Scott Smith, as quickly as possible. A conviction for BWI is comparable to a conviction for DWI. The penalties can be harsh, and the consequences can make your life difficult for years to come.


Some boaters may not even know that boating while impaired is illegal in the state of North Carolina just like driving while impaired. In fact, under North Carolina law, you can be convicted of boating while impaired if you:

  1. operated a motorboat or another vessel on the water while impaired by drugs, alcohol, or any other intoxicating substance
  2. had a blood alcohol content (BAC) level measuring 0.08 percent or higher while operating a boat or for a reasonable period after operating a boat
  3. were impaired while using water skis, a surfboard, a non-motorized boat or vessel, or any similar device on the water

In most cases, boating while impaired in North Carolina is charged as a Class Two misdemeanor punishable upon conviction by up to sixty days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

What Is Sheyenne’s Law (And Why Do Boaters Need To Know)?

However, if someone is seriously injured or killed by an impaired boater, the charge will be a felony, and prison is likely upon conviction. That’s because of Sheyenne’s Law, named for 17-year-old Sheyenne Marshall, who was killed by an impaired boater in North Carolina in 2015.

Under Sheyenne’s Law, the following crimes are considered serious felonies in this state, and a lengthy prison term is the probable sentence upon conviction:

  1. Serious injury by impaired boating
  2. Aggravated serious injury by impaired boating
  3. Death by impaired boating
  4. Aggravated death by impaired boating
  5. Repeat death by impaired boating


The message is simple. Don’t drink while operating a boat in North Carolina. That’s the best way to avoid a BWI charge and the best way to avoid hurting anyone. The legal consequences are too serious, and your own life and the lives of those you’re boating with are too important.

Still, if you make a mistake, or if you are wrongly charged with BWI and you’re innocent, good legal help is available in the Winston-Salem or Greensboro area. You must speak at once to an experienced Winston-Salem DWI attorney at LAWSMITH, the Law Offices of J. Scott Smith.

How Lawsmith Can Help And How You Can Reach Us

We will review the charge against you, craft the most appropriate defense strategy, and bring your BWI case to its best possible conclusion. Do not try to act as your own attorney. You must be defended by an experienced DWI lawyer who knows how to win justice on your behalf.

Call LAWSMITH at 336-306-8644 or use the contact form here on our website to reach us about a BWI case or any related legal matter. Our LAWSMITH offices are located in Greensboro and in Winston-Salem. We will fight aggressively for the justice you deserve and need.