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Stiffer BUI law in Virginia held up in legislature

A Virginia bill that would increase the penalty for boating while intoxicated to a Class Four felony and up to 10 years behind bars has stalled in the state legislature.

Those efforts to ramp up the penalties for BUI are on hold indefinitely at the Capitol. But lawmakers and law enforcement officials tell NBC 29 that awareness of the dangers on the water are their primary focus.

“There are lots of individuals out there who are consuming too much alcohol and operating their motorboats,” Republican state Sen. Tommy Norment told the station.

Norment's Senate Bill 487 would increase the penalty for DUI maiming to a Class Four felony — a minimum of two years and as much as 10 years behind bars. Seriously injuring someone would result in at least a year.

“I was hopeful it would act as a deterrent,” Norment said.

Despite strong support, the proposal is expected to cost the state about $300,000 during the next six years, and lawmakers have yet to approve the funds. That means the bill is on ice until next year.

“Frankly, if it saves one life or saves one person from being seriously injured, then to me $300,000 over that period of time is irrelevant,” Norment said.

Norment said he will continue to push for the harsher penalties in 2015 and for more awareness about the dangers of drinking and boating.

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