Vermont Senators Seek Drunk Boating Penalties

May 21, 2004

Two state senators want to make penalties for boating while intoxicated similar to those imposed for driving while intoxicated.

Sens. John Campbell, D-Windsor, and Vincent Illuzzi, R-Essex-Olreans, said a proposal would probably be ready for the Legislature when it returns in January.

“Times have changed,” said Illuzzi. “We have more boats. We have higher-performance boats. There’s more demand on the lakes. For those reasons, we have to adjust the law to catch up with the changes.”

The lawmakers’ interest was sparked by the case of George Dean Martin, the Charlotte man convicted May 7 on two counts of boating while intoxicated with death resulting. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $4,000 fine when he is sentenced in June.

A jury found Martin guilty on charges that stemmed from the July 4, 2002, drowning deaths of siblings Melissa Mack, 9, and Trevor Mack, 4. The boat Martin was piloting overturned on Lake Champlain near Diamond Island, and the children were trapped below the vessel.

Had Martin been behind the wheel of a car, he would be facing as many as 30 years in prison and $20,000 in fines.

The Illuzzi-Campbell bill would equalize all levels of the two drunken-operation laws, from the first offense through a crash that causes death. Doing so would increase the maximum jail time a person convicted of drunken boating could serve and the fines a person could pay.

The bill also would add a felony provision to the drunken-boating law for third offenses and thereafter, and create a provision to address boating while intoxicated with injury resulting, Illuzzi said.

The biggest question Illuzzi said he needed to answer was whether to link drunken boating to losing a driver’s license. Under state law, people convicted of boating while intoxicated are only allowed to operate non-motorized canoes and rowboats for one year, but a conviction has no effect on their privilege to drive cars.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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