Florida is famed for its gorgeous beaches and laid back ocean view. Boating is a common activity, and so are boat parties in the sunshine! However, this also means that an increasing number of people are convicted for boating under the influence (BUI). A BUI and the penalties are very similar to those for driving under the influence (DUI), and it should not be taken lightly.
If you are facing accusations for boating under the influence in Clearwater, then you should seek help from a skilled criminal defense lawyer as quickly as possible. They will gather evidence and explore your defense from every angle. They will also help you navigate Florida’s complex legal system and support you through this difficult time.
A number of our criminal defense attorneys are AVVO rated 10.0, the best possible rating, based on client reviews, awards, and years in service. In fact, we are able to boast 75 years of collective experience, and we will assess your case as a team so that we can explore every possible defense.
Contact us today for a free consultation with a boating under the influence lawyer at (941) 444-4444.
What Does Boating Under the Influence Mean in Florida?
Under Florida Statute 327.35, it is illegal for someone to operate any vessel under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The term vessel is used to cover barges, watercraft, airboats, seaplanes, or any other type of transportation used on the water. The statute outlines that you can be charged with a BUI if:
- You had blood alcohol or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or above.
- You had consumed drugs, alcohol, or a combination, which resulted in your normal faculties being impaired.
The circumstances where it can be said that your normal faculties are impaired are outlined in Florida Statute 316.1934. It includes an impaired ability to walk, hear, talk, see, judge distances, make judgments, and normally perform daily life’s physical and mental acts. It is a broad term and is left largely to the judgment of law enforcement.
If you are facing a BUI in Clearwater, then you must seek help from a criminal defense attorney as soon as is possible. It could be that law enforcement made a false judgment. Even if you believe you are innocent, you should seek help from a criminal defense attorney so that they can help you prove it and shed doubt on your prosecution.
What Happens if You Get a BUI in Florida?
The severity of the penalties that can incur from a boating under the influence (BUI) charge is dependent on several factors, including:
- Whether you have any previous BUI or DUI convictions.
- How high your breath alcohol or blood alcohol concentration was.
- Whether you contributed to an accident, and how severe that accident was.
- Whether you had passengers under the age of 18 when you were caught boating under the influence.
Whatever the circumstances, you could be faced with a criminal charge that could impact you for the rest of your life. Therefore, you should do all you can to protect yourself by hiring a committed criminal defense attorney.
First-Offense BUI Penalties
If this is your first BUI conviction, then it will be charged as a second-degree misdemeanor. The penalties for such an offense include a fine valued from $500 to $1,000 and a possible jail sentence of a maximum of 6 months. Florida judges must sentence first-time offenders to probation at least. Although, the total time sentenced for probation and jail cannot exceed one year. There are also mandatory probation conditions, including 50 hours worth of community service and a ten-day immobilization or impoundment of the vessel in question.
However, the penalties for a first-time BUI conviction could be significantly worse if any of the following apply:
- You had a blood alcohol concentration of .15% or more, or you had a passenger under the age of 18 years old on the vessel. Although this could still be classified as a second-degree misdemeanor, you could expect to be sentenced to up to nine months in jail and a fine valued between $1,000 and $2000.
- If your actions caused an accident involving property damage or minor injuries to another person, then your charge could be elevated to a first-degree misdemeanor. You could face up to one year in jail and a fine valued up to $1,000.
- If your actions caused an accident that resulted in serious injury to another person, this offense could be elevated to a third-degree felony. This carries penalties that include up to five years in jail and a fine valued up to $5,000.
- If the BUI resulted in another person’s death, you could face either a first or second-degree felony. A first-degree felony could result in up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. A second-degree felony could result in up to 15 years in prison and a fine valued up to $10,000.
Second-Offense BUI Penalties
If you are caught boating under the influence for the second time in Clearwater, you will face a second-degree misdemeanor. Consequently, your fine will be between $1,000 and $2,000, and you could be sentenced to up to nine months in jail. If your second BUI is within 5 years of the first, then there is a mandatory jail sentence of at least 10 days, and your vessel must be immobilized or impounded for 30 days.
If this is your second BUI offense and other mitigating factors are at play, such as a high BAC level or a young person on board, then you could face a fine valued from $2,000 to $4,000, and you could be sentenced to up to 12 months in jail.
Third-Offense BUI Penalties
If you receive a third BUI offense within 10 years of a prior DUI or BUI, it will be classed as a third-degree felony. This would result in up to 5 years in prison, and a fine valued up to $5,000. There is also a mandatory jail sentence of at least 30 days.
If more than 10 years have passed, then you could still be charged with a misdemeanor, and you could serve up to 12 months in jail with a fine valued between $2,000 and $5,000. However, if your BAC was .15% or above or you had a passenger under 18, then the minimum fine is $4,000.
A third BUI will likely result in your vessel being immobilized or impounded for 90 days.
Does a BUI Affect Your Driver’s License in Florida?
If you are convicted of a BUI in Clearwater, this does not affect your driver’s license. However, you should still seek help from a criminal defense attorney at The Law Place. As you can see, the laws are complex, and your case’s circumstances will affect the kinds of punishments you could be facing. But any conviction will result in a criminal record, which could affect your job and housing.
An open, honest, and non-judgmental attorney-client relationship is important to us. We are here to listen to you and help minimize any consequences you could face in Florida.
Can You Drive a Boat With a DUI in Florida?
If you have been charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in Florida, then you can still lawfully drive a boat. However, you should be mindful that if you are convicted for boating under the influence after being convicted of a DUI previously, then your penalties will be more severe.
If you have any questions, contact The Law Place in Florida for a free consultation, we will do what we can to help your stress and make things clearer.
Defenses Against Boating Under the Influence Charges
Unlike when you are driving on the road, law enforcement does not need probable cause to stop your vessel and perform tests. This means you could be stopped, even if you were not behaving practically. Nevertheless, if you were acting safely, then this will work in your favor.
A boating under the influence lawyer at The Law Place will assess your case’s individual circumstances to come up with the best defenses. However, some common defenses for boating under the influence include:
- Improper field sobriety tests – There are also strict laws about how law enforcement can carry out field sobriety tests. Your defense lawyer could argue that the tests were invalid if either proper protocol was not followed, or you have a disability or condition that makes them unreliable.
- Inaccurate breath results – Breathalyzer machines in Florida can produce inaccurate and inconsistent results. If they were not administered correctly or the machine was not adequately maintained, the breath test results could be thrown out.
If the main pieces of evidence against you are thrown out, you will likely not be charged for boating under the influence.
Contact The Law Place in Florida Today!
If you or someone you know faces charges for boating under the influence in Clearwater or elsewhere in Florida, you should seek help as soon as possible.
At The Law Place, the attorney-client relationship is of the utmost importance. We will get right to work gathering evidence, and we will do everything possible to have your charge dismissed or reduced.
A defense lawyer in Florida will be available to speak to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So, if you are facing a possible BUI conviction, get in touch today at (941) 444-4444.