Benninghoff ‘Drunken Boating’ Bill Approved by House

The House on Tuesday approved Rep. Kerry Benninghoff’s (R-Centre/Mifflin) “drunken boating” legislation that would increase the legal penalty for anyone who kills someone while operating a watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 

Benninghoff’s bill would bring the penalty for drunken boating that results in a homicide in line with the penalties for vehicular homicides caused by drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 

 “The punishment must fit the crime,” Benninghoff said.  “Drunken boaters should not be dealt with more leniently than drunken drivers.  When people get behind the wheel – whether it’s in a car or a boat – they must take responsibility for their actions.” 

Benninghoff’s bill originated after the 2009 death of 12-year-old Valerie Heidt, who was killed in a boating accident in the Susquehanna River.  Heidt was killed by a man operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol. 

“The families affected by drunken boating incidents don’t care that the driver was in a boat instead of a car,” Benninghoff said.  “Neither should the law.” 

House Bill 78 would change the penalty for homicide by watercraft while under the influence from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony, bringing it in line with the penalty for vehicular homicide while driving under the influence. 

Benninghoff’s bill now heads to the Senate for consideration. 

State Representative Kerry Benninghoff
171st District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Contact:  Dan Massing

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