With Florida having some of the most extensive and beautiful coastlines in the country, it has become an extremely popular destination for those who boat recreationally and commercially. Did you know that there are almost 100,000 vessels registered for recreational use in Florida? However, as we have seen with traffic increases on land, more boats on the water create more risk. We see boating accidents happening all year round, and some leave people facing severe consequences.
The law in Fort Myers, FL., takes the operation of any vehicle whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol very seriously. Boats are no exception. The penalties for doing so can be severe and can include fines, prison time, and a criminal record. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident, you may face anything from a low-level misdemeanor to a first-degree felony. This is why hiring the representation of an experienced criminal defense attorney will be vital to the success of your case.
At The Law Place, we have a team of defense attorneys who have over 75 years of combined experience in representing clients with cases just like yours. We are confident that together we can build a strong defense that may see your charges reduced or dropped altogether. We work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to ensure that our clients are getting the best legal advice available. Before you decide on your representation, it is important to trust your attorney. This is why we offer a free consultation service that allows you to voice all your questions and queries before making a final decision. Call us today and schedule a free case evaluation.
Florida Law and Boating Under the Influence
It is written under Florida Statute 327.35 that operating a vessel whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal and will be prosecuted. The following is a list of legal definitions that explain this statute further:
- ‘Operating’ – The law defines ‘operating’ a boat as having control of, steering, or driving a vessel.
- ‘Under the influence of alcohol’ – You will be charged with a BUI if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 or higher. This measure is per 100 milliliters of blood or per 210 liters of breath.
- ‘Vessel’ – The State of Florida defines the word ‘vessel’ as being any type of boat or watercraft that is used on a waterway inside state lines. Examples of watercraft are kayaks, jet skis, and all commercial or private boats.
- ‘Impaired’ – When talking about being impaired, we are referring to a person’s mental state when they are not capable of making rational decisions. Impairment also affects a person’s reaction times, making it dangerous for them to be in control of a vessel. Impairment can also affect the senses, making it difficult to see and hear properly too.
- ‘Drugs’ – Florida Statute 877.111 has the details of what is considered a drug laid out in more detail. It is illegal to be in the operation of a vehicle whilst under the influence of any controlled substance.
Florida Boating Accident Statistics
You may be surprised to know that the U.S. Coast Guard has released reports which show that Florida has the highest number of boating accidents annually. Furthermore, studies have shown that Florida usually has the highest record of boating accidents caused by alcohol consumption in the United States.
Here are some statistics that were released in a 2020 report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:
- Approximately 22% of people involved in boat accidents are seriously injured.
- More boating fatalities happen annually in Florida than in any other state.
- The year 2020 saw the use of drugs and alcohol play a part in 23% of all boating accident fatalities.
- 2020 also saw drugs and alcohol use cause 6% of boat accidents in the state.
- Almost 1,000 boating accidents were reported in Florida in 2020.
If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges of boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol, then you need the help of an experienced defense attorney now. Call The Law Place in Fort Myers, FL., and find how we can help you get your life back on track.
Penalties and Criminal Charges for Boating Under the Influence in Fort Myers
The exact punishment you receive will depend on the circumstances under which the boating accident occurred, as well as how many previous convictions you already have. More information can found under Florida Statute 327.35, but we have included a breakdown of all the possible charges you may face below.
First-Time BUI Charge
The punishments for a first-time BUI conviction can include:
- A fine of between $500 and $1,000 and a prison sentence of up to 6 months for those whose blood or breath alcohol content exceeded 0.08.
- A fine of between $1,000 and $2,000 and a prison sentence of up to 9 months for those whose blood or breath content exceeded 0.15. These punishments will also be given if there was a minor on board when the accident occurred.
- A third-degree felony charge if the accident caused serious injury to another. This felony charge carries a penalty of up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
- A second-degree felony charge if the accident took someone’s life. This felony charge carries a penalty of up to fifteen years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- A first-degree felony if the accident took someone’s life and you left the scene of the accident. This felony charge carries a penalty of up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Second-Time BUI Charge
As we have seen, there are many possible punishments for a first-time conviction. The same can be said for anyone facing a second-time BUI charge:
- A fine of between $1,000 and $2,000 and a prison sentence of up to 9 months for those whose blood or breath alcohol content was 0.08 or more.
- A fine of between $2,000 and $4,000 and a prison sentence of up to a year for those whose blood or breath alcohol content was 0.15 or more.
- Your vessel will be impounded or immobilized for up to 30 days.
- There is also a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 days.
Third-Time BUI Charge
The penalties increase in severity for those who are facing BUI charges for the third time. The penalties include:
- A third-degree felony charge for an offense that happens within 10 years of previous convictions. The penalties are a prison sentence of up to 5 years and a fine of up to $5,000.
- For anyone who is charged 10 years or more after their previous convictions, the punishment is up to 1 year in prison and a fine of between $2,000 and $5,000.
- A mandatory minimum prison sentence of 30 days.
- Your vessel will be impounded or immobilized for up to 90 days.
Other Factors That Affect BUI Penalties
As previously mentioned, your final charge and the penalty you receive will depend on the details of your case. The circumstances surrounding the accident will affect the final punishment you face and could increase or decrease its severity:
- If you were found to be excessively under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident, your punishment would be more severe. This would be true for those whose blood or breath alcohol content was 0.15 or above.
- If the injuries that the victim sustained were extremely serious, you would face harsher sentencing. Injuries such as permanent disability or disfigurement are both considered very serious.
- If you damaged property during the accident, you might see your charge increase. This is also dependant on the extent of the damage you caused.
- If you were breaking the speed limit or generally driving recklessly, then you may see your fine or prison sentence increase.
No matter the circumstances under which your accident happened, you need the advice and support of an experienced criminal defense attorney. If you are facing charges of boating under the influence in Fort Myers, FL., then you need to call The Law Place and schedule a free consultation today. We offer confidential and impartial advice to all our potential clients and guarantee that we will be by your side every step of the way.
Causing a Serious Bodily Injury in a Boating Accident in Fort Myers, FL.
The law states that a serious bodily injury is one which:
- Creates a significant risk of death.
- Creates significant disfigurement.
- Causes damage to an organ.
- Causes damage to the brain.
When a person is serious injured in a boating accident, they have the legal right to file a lawsuit against the perpetrator. The aim of this is to recover compensation for the financial, physical, and emotional damages they have felt. If you are facing this type of lawsuit, then you will need an attorney who understands Florida’s personal injury laws and can advise you on what rights and obligations you have.
Will I Get Sued for Causing an Injury by Boating Under the Influence?
There is a chance that you will be sued by the victim or their family if you have been convicted of boating under the influence. If they choose to bring a case against you, you will be facing a personal injury lawsuit. In order to be successful, this lawsuit will need to prove that your negligence caused the accident.
The prosecution must clearly show that you:
- Owed the victim a duty of care.
- Failed to provide this duty of care by acting negligently.
- This failure was the direct cause of the injuries or wrongful death that the victim sustained.
In the event that you are found guilty of negligent behavior in a personal injury case, you may be held financially responsible for any of the following damages that the victim faced:
- Medical bills, including appointments, treatments, prescriptions, and ongoing care like physiotherapy.
- Any loss of income due to the accident. This could be anything from recovery time to time spent at doctor’s appointments.
- Pain and suffering, which are regarded as non-economic damages.
- Damage to property, which includes both the plaintiff’s vessel and anything onboard.
Understanding Your Rights in a BUI Case
It is extremely important to know your rights if you are facing charges of boating under the influence or if you have caused a BUI accident in Fort Myers. Understanding what legal rights you have will help you to avoid incriminating yourself further, as well as helping you to act lawfully throughout the legal process. Being aware of how to act and what you are entitled to could greatly help the outcome of your case.
Law Enforcement Waterway Stops
You may not realize that the rules of the road do not always apply to the water. On land, law enforcement needs to have probable cause if they want to stop your vehicle. This is not the case for vessels. Safety inspections can be carried out by police officers or the U.S. Coast Guard at any time. They do not need to suspect that a crime is happening to come aboard, which means that you must stop your vessel if instructed to do so. Failing to comply puts you at risk of receiving punishment.
Treatment by Law Enforcement Officers
As per Florida Statute 776.05, law enforcement officers are only allowed to use a reasonable amount of force when they are in pursuit of, making the arrest of, or are in charge of suspected criminals. So, they have the right to use weapons like tasers, firearms, and batons, but they cannot use excessive force on a person.
If a law enforcement officer instructs you to take a breathalyzer or blood test based on their suspicion of your intoxication, you must comply.
When talking to police officers at the scene of the accident, you will be required to provide certain information. Your personal details, insurance details, and vessel registration may all be requested. If you refuse or fail to provide any information requested, you may face a higher fine and even a longer sentence.
This being said, remember that it is your Fifth Amendment right to withhold potentially incriminating information. Plus, the arresting law enforcement officer must read you your Miranda rights before you are taken into custody.
Contact The Law Place for a Free Consultation Today
If you are facing charges of boating under the influence in Fort Myers, then you need the help of a seasoned criminal defense attorney. The consequences of your actions can have long-lasting effects for both you and your family, affecting your ability to find worthwhile employment and apply for services like house and car loans.
At The Law Place, we have a team of personal injury lawyers who are dedicated to helping our clients. With over 75 years of combined experience, we have successfully defended all manner of cases, including ones just like yours. Even if you have previous criminal convictions, there is always hope.
Our commitment to our clients means that we have a wealth of positive client testimonies that show just how important our attorney-client relationships really are. We offer a free consultation service so that you can meet our team and make sure that we are the right law firm for you. You will also receive free, impartial advice on what steps to take next, no strings attached. So do not hesitate to contact us. Our lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so that we are here for you when you need it most. Call us now.