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Carteret County BWI Lawyer

Many people assume that DWI only refers to motor vehicles driven on state roadways. This, however, is untrue. In fact, according to the definitions laid out in §20‑4.01(49) of the 2009 North Carolina code, a vehicle is defined as any vehicle upon which a person or property can be transported – excluding those powered by humans or set exclusively on fixed tracks. In fact, in §20-138.1, when outlining DWI law, the only "vehicle" that is deemed as exempt is that of a horse.

BWI Defense: Providing Carteret County Clients with 20 Years of Combined Experience

For this reason, those who are considered to be under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances are not exempt from the law when operating a boat on one of the state's waterways. In fact, due to the extenuating circumstances of being on a boat (such as the wind, sun and water), the effects of alcohol can actually seem more exaggerated and can cause a law enforcement officer to believe that the accused has actually consumed much more alcohol than they actually have.

Therefore, if you have recently been criminally charged with boating while impaired, it is not encouraged that you attempt to handle the case on your own. These cases can be complex and can easily spiral out of control. Having the legal experience of a knowledgeable Carteret County criminal defense lawyer can be the difference between successfully combating the charges and suffering the consequences.

Learn more about how we can help you to protect your rights, and find answers to some of our most frequently asked questions below.


If you’re considering hiring an attorney, we’re here to shed some light on some of the benefits you may experience when you hire representation. In brief, it’s our goal to work with your best interests in mind. We’ll do our utmost to protect your rights, and we strive to reduce the severity of charges held against you, the severity of sentencing for those charges, or to have your charges dropped altogether. Here are some additional benefits you may experience when you hire a criminal lawyer:

Attorneys understand court proceedings: When you’ve been charged with a criminal offense, you’ll be facing a confusing road of court proceedings. An attorney helps you to navigate through the process, from an initial consultation through to trial. We’ll work with you to ensure that proper paperwork is filed, court dates are met, and court procedures go smoothly.

Attorneys are educated: When it comes to the criminal justice system, knowledge and expertise are a must. A specialized attorney will know how to best approach an individual case to best benefit their client. Your attorney will evaluate your case and its circumstances, and build a game plan that best suits your interests.

Protecting your rights: A criminal defense attorney knows your rights, and how best to leverage those rights to defend you. From handling the police to representation in the courtroom, your lawyer will help to protect your rights, defending you from prosecution.

Relations with local professionals: Attorneys know local judges, and they’ve worked in local courts. As an integral part of the law community, your criminal defense lawyer will have a rapport with others that work in the field of law. 

Knowing local law: Alongside their relationship with local law professionals, your attorney will also know the ins and outs of local law, including specific county and state laws. Here at Cummings and Kennedy, we specialize in providing criminal defense services for those who have been accused of crimes here in Carteret County, North Carolina. 

If you’re considering representing yourself, we urge you to weigh your options. Hiring an attorney may help you to minimize the sentence you receive for a charge, they may help you to reduce your charges, or you may have them dropped entirely.


Do I have to be on a boat to be issued a BWI?

Technically, no. BWI infractions can occur on a variety of watercraft and sports equipment. North Carolina law states that “No person shall manipulate any water skis, surfboard, non-motorized vessel, or similar device on the waters of this State while under the influence of an impairing substance.” [N.C.G.S. § 75A-10(b)]. As such, an individual can receive a BWI charge even while driving a paddle boat, riding a wakeboard, or driving a sailboat, among other watercraft.

Who has the right to board my boat?

Unlike DWIs, an authority does not have to have suspicion of impairment to stop or board your vehicle. Several types of officers and authority figures may legally board your boat at any time to perform a safety check. All of the following authority figures may legally board your boat: local police, state police, game wardens, N.C. Wildlife Resource officers, Marine Fisheries officers, and the U.S. Coast Guard. Boats may be stopped and boarded on state waterways, on boat ramps, and even in parking lots.

Must I submit to a breathalyzer test?

You have the right to refuse a breathalyzer test if you are asked to take a breathalyzer. If you are then arrested for BWI, you will be asked to take a breathalyzer test at the station; again, you can refuse to take a breathalyzer. In this circumstance, an officer may get a warrant to test your blood for impairing substances or your blood alcohol level.

Can I be issued a BWI if I wasn’t under the influence of alcohol?

Yes, you can be charged with a BWI if you are under the influence of any impairing substance. North Carolina’s laws on the subject are as follows:

“No person shall operate any vessel while underway on the waters of this State:

(1) While under the influence of an impairing substance, or

(2) After having consumed sufficient alcohol that the person has, at any relevant time after the boating, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.” [N.C.G.S. § 75A-10(b1)]

As such, you can be issued a BWI for ingesting any substance that may influence you while you are on watercraft on North Carolina waterways, including drugs, alcohol, and even prescription drugs (e.g. muscle relaxers).

What kind of penalties can I expect if I’m convicted of a BWI?

BWIs are a relatively serious charge, and the state of North Carolina usually classifies BWI offenses as class II misdemeanors, depending on the circumstances of the charge, as well as the current criminal record of the accused. If you’re facing a BWI sentence, you can expect between $250 and $1,000 in fines, and up to 60 days in jail — again, sentencing will vary due to a number of factors.

Can a BWI be considered a felony?

While most BWI charges do not result in felony sentences, there are instances where a BWI will result in a felony conviction. In December of 2016, North Carolina enacted stricter laws surrounding BWIs. An individual may be issued a felony for any of the following infractions under N.C.G.S. § 75A-10.3:

“Serious injury by impaired boating”: This offense is issued in cases where a BWI offender causes injury to another individual. Serious injury by impaired boating offenses are usually considered Class F felonies, and individuals facing a serious injury by impaired boating conviction can expect a fine and between 10 and 41 months in prison.

“Aggravated serious injury by impaired boating”: Aggravated serious injury by impaired boating offenses are issued to BWI offenders who have caused serious injury, and have already faced a BWI conviction within the last seven years. Aggravated serious injury by impaired boating sentences generally include a fine and between 15 and 63 months of prison time. Aggravated serious injury by impaired boating is a Class E felony.

“Death by impaired boating”: Death by impaired boating charges are issued to BWI offenders who cause the death of another person while boating on North Carolina waterways. Death by impaired boating infractions are class D felonies, and sentencing generally carries a 38- to 160-month prison term, as well as fines.

“Aggravated death by impaired boating”: Aggravated death by impaired boating offenses are issued to BWI offenders who have caused the death of an individual and have been convicted of a BWI within the last seven years. Aggravated death by impaired boating sentences generally include a fine and between 64 and 160 months of prison time, and this crime is considered a class D felony.

“Repeat death by impaired boating”: Repeat death by impaired boating offenses are issued to BWI offenders who have caused the death of an individual and have been convicted of a death by impaired boating infraction or aggravated death by impaired boating infraction in the past. Repeat death by impaired boating offenses are class B2 felonies, and they may result in fines, as well as between 94 and 393 months of prison time.

Consult with a local firm that you can trust. At Cummings & Kennedy, we are a local, family-run firm prepared to fight for you.

Contact a Carteret County BWI attorney from our firm today to discuss your case and defend your rights!