Everyone knows that driving a car under the influence of drugs or alcohol is against the law; however, fewer people are aware that operating a boat while intoxicated carries similar criminal penalties. Under state law, it is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Violations of the state’s boating while intoxicated statute provides for escalating penalties for each subsequent conviction, including fines and potentially jail time.
In a recent case, the court considered an appeal filed by a defendant who was convicted of negligently criminal homicide and boating while intoxicated charges.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, the case arose after a 16-year-old girl was killed after hitting her head on a bridge while riding on a boat that was owned by the defendant. The accident occurred in the early morning hours. Evidently, the defendant was aboard the boat, and allowed his 17-year-old co-defendant to drive. The night before, the defendant, the co-defendant, and the victim, were all at the defendant’s home drinking and smoking marijuana. Once the defendant got behind the wheel, he started driving erratically. Witnesses explained that the boat was traveling at high speeds, swerving across the water immediately before the accident. There was no testimony that the defendant tried to regain control of the boat, or that he told the co-defendant to stop driving in a dangerous manner.
Both the defendant and the co-defendant were charged with criminally negligent homicide and related charges of boating while intoxicated. The defendant was convicted (the appeal did not involve the co-defendant’s case). He appealed his conviction and sentence on several grounds. However, the court determined that there was sufficient evidence to find him guilty of criminally negligent homicide.
The court also rejected the defendant’s claim that certain evidence was improperly admitted at trial. Specifically, the defendant objected to testimony from the co-defendant indicating that had purchased marijuana from the defendant’s son while the defendant was present. The court explained that the defendant did not properly object to the introduction of the evidence at trial, and thus, he waived his right to challenge the evidence on appeal. The court also held that the evidence was relevant to explain to the jury why the co-defendant may have been at the defendant’s home the night before the accident.
As a result of the court’s opinion, the defendant’s conviction was affirmed. However, the court reversed part of the defendant’s sentence, because the trial court misinterpreted the law when it ordered the defendant to serve a one-year prison sentence as well as pay a $1,500 fine. The relevant statute provides for “either” incarceration of a fine, not both.
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