Recreational boating is an incredibly popular pastime amongst residents and tourists alike in Florida, and with such pristine beaches, lakes, and rivers, it’s not hard to see why. Every year, thousands and thousands of people take to the water on boats, including speed boats, sailboats, yachts, jet skis, and more. However, with this comes unavoidable boating accidents, and the possibility of boating accidents rapidly increases if those operating the boat have been drinking alcohol or consuming drugs.
This is why Florida classifies boating under the influence (BUI) as just as serious a crime as driving under the influence. Like DUIs, drinking and boating isn’t a crime, but operating a boat whilst over the legal limits is and brings severe penalties with it.
At The Law Place, we know that you may not have known the laws around boating under the influence or been aware of how drunk you actually were, and we don’t think you should be facing life-changing consequences for a single mistake. Our criminal defense lawyers have over 75 years of combined experience in dealing with the Florida legal system and helping clients facing charges just like yours! By enlisting our help, you can trust that skilled attorneys will be working on your case, building a strong defense, and fighting for the best possible outcome on your behalf. So, don’t hesitate! Contact The Law Place today to schedule a free consultation and receive valuable legal advice about what your best options are.
Call us now at (941) 444-4444!
What Is a BUI in Florida?
In North Port, Florida, BUI is seen as a serious criminal offense. It is when someone is caught operating a boat or sea vessel while impaired by the effects of alcohol or drugs to the extent that they are a danger to themselves, the people on board, and others nearby.
Contrary to what you might think, drinking and boating itself isn’t illegal, but if you have consumed enough alcohol to be above the blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08%, then you can be arrested and charged for BUI. However, this limit is different for people under 21.
As stated in Florida Statute 322.2616, Florida employs a zero-tolerance policy regarding boating under the influence for people below 21 years old, which is identical to the state’s DUI rules. The BAC limit for underage boaters is only 0.02%. This is because the State of Florida wishes to deter underage drinking and boating as much as possible.
If you have been charged with boating under the influence in Florida, then you should get in touch with The Law Place today to schedule a free consultation. Speak to a knowledgeable lawyer to receive great legal advice that you know you can trust.
Common Penalties for BUI in North Port, Florida
As with any type of case, the penalties that offenders face depend entirely on their individual circumstances. Some of the most important factors are listed below:
- If the boat operator has prior BUI or DUI convictions, and if so, how many.
- If the boat operator had an excessive BAC of 0.15% or over.
- If the vessel had a person under 18 years old in the vessel at the time of the offense.
- If the operator caused or contributed to an accident involving property damage, injury, or death while under the influence.
We know that it may be confusing for you, and you may want a professional opinion of what penalties you could be facing based on your personal case. We also know how scary it may be to be facing such severe penalties after committing what may have just been a single mistake. Because of this, we strongly advise you to call The Law Place today to schedule a free case evaluation if you have been charged with BUI. Our Florida-based attorneys will be able to offer you legal advice tailored to your specific case and explain all your best options to you. Don’t delay, contact us now.
Penalties You Face for a First-Offense BUI Charge
Generally, first-offense BUIs are second-degree misdemeanors, but this does depend on the circumstances surrounding the case and particularly the consequences of your drunk boating. Below are the most common penalties that first-time BUI offenders face:
- $500 to $1,000 in fines.
- A maximum of six months jail time.
- Probation for up to 12 months.
- 50 hours of community service.
- Impoundment or immobilization of the offender’s vessel for 10 days.
These penalties can increase in the following common circumstances:
- Passenger under 18 years old or a BAC of 0.15% or above – Classed as a second-degree misdemeanor, and offenders can receive up to nine months in jail or $1,000 to $2,000 in fines.
- Accident caused property damage or minor injuries to someone – Classed as a first-degree misdemeanor, and offenders can receive up to one year in jail or $1,000 in fines.
- Accident caused serious injuries to someone – Classed as a third-degree felony, and offenders can receive up to five years in prison or $5,000 in fines.
- Accident caused a fatality – Classed as either a first or second-degree felony, and offenders can receive up to 30 years in prison for a first-degree felony, or 15 years in prison for a second-degree felony, plus up to $10,000 in fines for both.
Penalties You Face for a Second-Offense BUI Charge
A second-offense BUI charge is usually classed as a second-degree misdemeanor and can carry the following penalties:
- $1,000 to $2,000 in fines.
- Mandatory 10-day jail time if your second offense was committed within five years of your previous BUI conviction.
- Maximum of a nine-month prison sentence.
- Impoundment or immobilization of the offender’s vessel for 30 days.
If you had a blood or breath alcohol level of 0.15% or higher, or you had a minor on the boat with you, then the penalties increase to a possible fine of $2,000 to $4,000 and a maximum of 12 months in jail.
Penalties You Face for a Third-Offense BUI Charge
The penalties that offenders can face for third-offense BUI charges can vary widely and often depends heavily on how long it’s been since at least one of the previous BUI or DUI offenses.
If the third BUI was within 10 years of a previous one, then the offender is charged with a third-degree felony and is facing the following penalties:
- Mandatory 30-day jail time.
- Up to five years in prison.
- $5,000 in fines.
However, if the third BUI offense was after 10 years of the most recent previous one, then the offender is charged with a misdemeanor and is facing the following penalties:
- Up to 12 months in jail.
- $2,000 to $5,000 in fines.
Typically, everyone convicted of a third BUI charge will face vessel impoundment or immobilization for 90 days. The minimum fine will also be raised to $4,000 if the offender had a BAC of 0.15% or a passenger that was under 18.
Does Law Enforcement Have the Right to Randomly Inspect My Vessel in North Port, Florida?
In Florida, law enforcement officers can stop a vessel for a random inspection. Law enforcement officials along with the coast guard, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, sheriff’s deputies, and any other authorized officers have the authority to stop vessels for the following reasons:
- Safety equipment checks.
- Fishing compliance or safety registration.
- Enforcing boating safety laws.
- Inspection of a vessel.
- Require the removal of a vessel if it’s deemed to be a hazard to public health and safety.
If you are unsure whether law enforcement had the right to inspect your vessel, then you should contact The Law Place and schedule a free consultation to speak to an experienced attorney.
Defenses to a BUI Charge in North Port, Florida
It is not always easy to beat a boating under the influence charge, but it is more likely with a skilled criminal defense lawyer on your side. Experienced attorneys will be familiar with the common approaches that prosecutors take and will know how to combat their arguments. They will also be able to discredit the evidence and build a strong defense for your case. This is crucial, as no two cases are the same, so every defense must be different and tailored to the specific case. By hiring an attorney that can build a solid defense on your behalf and represent you professionally in court, you will be vastly increasing your chances of a successful trial.
Listed below are some common defenses that the lawyers at The Law Place have successfully used before to help people charged with boating under the influence:
- The breath-alcohol level – Breathalyzer machines often show inconsistent and inaccurate results, and an experienced lawyer may be able to argue that your results were flawed. If the officer who administered the test did not adequately meet the standards when administering the test or did not properly maintain the machine, then the results may be thrown out.
- Field sobriety tests – In the State of Florida, law enforcement officers must issue field sobriety tests under specific guidelines. This means that it is possible for your attorneys to challenge the results of the tests, including if the officer is familiar with and qualified to conduct these tests, if the operator has a physical disability or any injuries, if the results could have been caused by other factors, and more.
There are also other simple defenses that could be used for your case, such as you not actually being under the influence, not being the boat operator, etc.
The easiest way to get BUI charges reduced or dismissed is by being able to prove that the field sobriety exercises that were issued were done improperly. However, to be able to have any chance at securing a favorable outcome, you need to work with a reputable BUI attorney based in North Port, Florida. The attorneys at The Law Place have the experience and knowledge necessary to build a strong defense on your behalf. So, contact The Law Place today to book a free consultation and give our attorneys plenty of time to work on your defense.
Can I Get My Charges Dismissed?
Although it’s unlikely, it is possible that a judge may choose to dismiss the charges you are facing. Below are some of the reasons why a judge may choose to do this:
- Granting leniency– A judge may choose to reduce or dismiss the charges against you if it was your first BUI or DUI offense and you were on or only slightly above the limit.
- Mishandling of evidence– If the evidence against you was illegally obtained or mishandled by law enforcement, then a judge might have no choice but to have your case dismissed.
- Lack of evidence– If the prosecution has insufficient evidence against you, then either they or the judge may dismiss the charges as there isn’t enough to be able to convict you. Unfortunately, this is unlikely, as cases usually don’t move forward unless there is an adequate amount of evidence to convict.
While it may seem unlikely to you now, there is a chance that by working with The Law Place, our lawyers will be able to discover if any of these defenses could apply to your case and then successfully argue for the dismissal of your BUI charges. To speak to a skilled and experienced attorney today, contact us and schedule a free consultation!
What Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Do for Me?
When you’re facing charges of a serious crime, such as boating under the influence, you may be feeling confused and scared by the penalties you’re facing and of the complex Florida legal system. This is why it’s vital that you contact a North Port criminal defense lawyer. Our attorneys at The Law Place will be able to support and guide you every step of the way, ensuring you understand the process so that you no longer feel confused and concerned. We will take on the bulk of the hard work, so you don’t experience any extra stress. Below are just some of the ways that our criminal defense lawyers can help you:
- Thoroughly investigate your case by interviewing eyewitnesses and reviewing all police reports and relevant official documents.
- Research relevant case statutes and precedents.
- Sort through and submit any legal documents on your behalf.
- Build a solid and aggressive defense.
- Professionally represent you in court.
- Negotiate with the prosecution.
- Fight for a reduction or dismissal of your charges, an acquittal, or for the most lenient penalties possible.
In the State of Florida, everyone is entitled to represent themselves in court, but this is not recommended. The legal system is complex, and it would be impossible for you to adequately understand it in such a short amount of time.
Don’t disadvantage yourself in court. Call The Law Place now.
Contact The Law Place Today!
If you or a loved one have been arrested and are now facing a conviction for boating under the influence in North Port or anywhere else in Florida, then you need to contact The Law Place. The consequences of a BUI are serious and can have a huge impact on your life.
An experienced BUI lawyer from The Law Place will be able to help you understand the laws relevant to your charge and work tirelessly to create a strong defense that will increase the chances of you securing a favorable result.
For legal advice and quality representation that you can trust, contact The Law Place today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our phone lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so don’t delay! Call us at (941) 444-4444.