Reckless Boating


Summer is here which means lake season is here! If you are a boat owner, renter, or passenger, it is important to know the North Carolina laws pertaining to the reckless or negligent operation of a vessel. Not only are there laws pertaining to the way in which a captain can operate the boat, but there are also laws that regulate water skis, wake boards, tubing, or other similar devices. If you, a loved one, or friend has been charged with a boating or vessel offense, it is imperative to contact our law offices and speak to an experienced member of our criminal team. We offer free consultations – 704.333.1114.

North Carolina General Statute § 75A-10 is about operating a vessel or manipulating water skis, etc., in a reckless manner; operating a vessel while intoxicated; and depositing or discharging litter. The statute states:

(a) No person shall operate any motorboat or vessel, or manipulate any water skis, surfboard, or similar device on the waters of this State in a reckless or negligent manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person.

  • Recklessness or Criminal Negligence: (which is commonly used in court) means there was a showing by an individual of a thoughtless disregard of the consequences. Also, it can be proven by a person’s carelessness to the safety and rights of any other person. Additionally, this can be satisfied by evidence which shows an intentional, willful, or wanton violation of a statute.

  • Examples of Reckless Boating:

    • Operating a boat in a restricted area without regard for other boaters, swimmers, speed limits, wake restrictions, or diver-down flags.
    • Operating under influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
    • Excessive speed causing large wakes near other boats.
    • Inadequate distance between boats.
    • Hazardous water skiing or towing practices.
    • Allowing passengers to ride where there is a risk of falling overboard.
    • Approaching another vessel intentionally and swerving at the last possible moment in order to avoid collision.

(b) No person shall manipulate any water skis, surfboard, nonmotorized vessel, or similar device on the waters of this State while under the influence of an impairing substance.

(b1) Additionally, no person shall operate a vessel while underway on the waters of this State while under the influence of an impairing substance, or after having consumed sufficient alcohol that the person has, at any relevant time after the boating, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.

(d) No person shall place, throw, deposit, or discharge or cause to be placed, thrown, deposited, or discharged on the waters of this State or into the inland lake waters of this State any medical waste as defined by N.C.G.S. 130A-290 which renders the waters unsightly, noxious, or otherwise unwholesome so as to be detrimental to the public health or welfare or to the enjoyment and safety of the water for recreational purposes.

Penalties for Violating N.C.G.S. § 75A-10

A person will be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor if they purportedly violated subsections (a), (b), or (b1) above. However, for (b1) the judge can issue other penalties like substance abuse classes or any other treatment, along with a fine not less than two hundred and fifty dollars ($250.00).

A person who allegedly violated subsection (d) of this section will be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. Along with violating subsection (d), if an individual releases medical waste that creates a substantial risk of physical injury to any person who is not a participant in the offense will be charged with a Class F felony. Additionally, the judge can include a fine not to exceed fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) per day of violation.