A CNY Mother Finally Sees Her Daughter's Death Turned Into Good with DWI Boating Law

Aug 17, 2016

MaryJo Heitkamp-France joined Senator John DeFrancisco (L) and Assembly Member Bill Magnarelli to announce Tiffany's law for boating while intoxicated. Heitkamp-France lost her daughter to an accident in which the driver of a boat was impaired and had prior drunk driving offenses.
Credit John Smith/WAER News

  A law ten years in the making to punish repeat drunk driving offenders isn’t as far reaching as State Senator John DeFrancisco would have liked but, he feels it will get people to think twice about the consequences.  MaryJo Heitkamp-France joined DeFrancisco Wednesday announcing the signing of the law named for her daughter.

21 year-old Tiffany Heitkamp died ten years ago at the hands of a drunk boater with a history of prior offenses.  At the time, the boaters’ prior DWI record couldn’t be considered.  DeFrancisco says judges will now have the discretion of two kinds of drunk driving offenses for repeat offenders.

“It’s not that  the judge will consider, or the judge can consider the prior offense, whether it’s a boat or a car.  The language says ‘shall consider’, so I think it’s as strong as we could possibly get it to get both houses in agreement and for the Governor to sign it.”

DeFrancisco originally wanted DWI’s to be counted cumulatively no matter what a person was driving under the influence.  He says that would have increased the crime.  The delays in the bill’s passage were differences in opinion over in the Assembly.  Representative Bill Magnarrelli feels they met halfway.

“When you compare the laws for driving while intoxicated in a car or in a bot or on an all-terrain vehicle, they’re all different.  It’s hard to make those all mesh.  What we did, with the help of the senator, we came to a conclusion that this was going to move it forward, what we wanted to do, and make sure that people started thinking about driving while intoxicated no matter, which vehicle theyre driving.”

Tiffany Heitkamp’s Mother, MaryJo Heitkamp-France, helped to advocate in getting the legislation passed.  She now hopes the ‘culture’ of boating will change.

“The boating community, the mentality with drinking and partying, they tie up and do this all day long on the lakes, and then they get behind the wheel of their boat and hopefully drive it home safely.  They don’t have the same mentality that we do when we drive our car.”

Under the new law, a second Boating While Intoxicated in the past five years could result in either a fine of up to $750 dollars or 30 days in jail… or both.  Prior automotive DWIs are considered.  Those caught Boating while under the influence of drugs more than once in the past ten years will also face charges.