Many people think that they only risk a drunk driving arrest when they're on the road operating a car, truck or motorcycle. However, you can find yourself charged with a DUI for operating a boat while under the influence.

Judges Must Consider Prior DUI Convictions

This month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law, which takes effect on Nov. 1, that mandates judges to consider all prior DUI convictions for a person convicted of boating while intoxicated in determining that person's sentence. Currently, the number of convictions for driving and boating while under the influence have no impact on one another. Therefore, a person convicted of DUI isn't considered a repeat offender if convicted of operating a boat under the influence.

Alcohol or Drug Use Involved in Half of 2015 NY Boating Fatalities

Boating is a popular activity for many residents and visitors to New York, which has numerous waterways and miles of ocean shoreline. According to last year's annual Recreational Boating Report, alcohol and drug use were a "primary contributing factor" to nearly a quarter of boating fatalities between 2005 and 2015, and in half of all boating fatalities in the state last year.

The new law was spurred by the death of a 20-year-old woman from upstate New York who was killed ten years ago by an intoxicated boater who had a DUI conviction.

Know the Law in Any State Where You're Boating

For many recreational boaters, having a cooler full of beers or a few bottles of wine on board is just part of the boating experience. It's common to stop at a dockside restaurant, have a meal and a few drinks, and then get back on your boat. However, being at the helm while under the influence can be dangerous to those on board as well as others on the water -- and land you in jail.

It's essential to know the laws regarding having alcohol on your boat and being under the influence while operating a boat -- not just in the state in which you start your trip, but in any other states (or countries, such as Canada) into whose waters you may be sailing. If you are charged with boating under the influence, it's essential to take the charge as seriously as you should a DUI and to get legal guidance and support.