Politics & Government

Senate approves bill increasing penalties on impaired boating

The state Senate unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that would increase penalties for drunken boating that results in serious death or injury.

House Bill 958, also known as “Sheyenne’s Law,” emerged in response to the death of Sheyenne Marshall, a 17-year-old Concord native. Marshall died last Fourth of July weekend on Lake Norman after being struck by a pontoon boat while riding on a kneeboard being pulled by another boat.

After discovering a disparity between punishments for drunken driving and drunken boating, Marshall’s family approached Rep. Larry Pittman, a Concord Republican, seeking a change.

“(The Marshall family) had pointed out to me how much less of a sentence it would be for a boating accident than out on the road in a car,” Pittman said. “I just felt if it’s the same result, same death or injury that occurs, the penalty ought to be the same from boating while drunk or driving a car while drunk.”

Under Sheyenne’s Law, aggravated death or serious injury by impaired boating would become a felony instead of a Class 2 misdemeanor. Upon conviction of impaired boating, the bill states that a fine of at least $250 is mandatory regardless of any other penalties imposed.

Leta Marshall, Sheyenne’s mother, said she hopes the new law will provide more protection for future victims of impaired boating.

“She wouldn’t want it any other way,” Leta Marshall said. “She’s probably smiling down today just so happy and excited that she’s got a law named after her that might help somebody else not have to go through what we’ve had to go through over this last year.”

Because the state House unanimously approved the bill last month, Sheyenne’s Law will go to Gov. Pat McCrory. If he signs it into law, the bill would go into effect Dec. 1.

Bryan Anderson: 919-829-8934, @bryananderson