If you live in Sarasota County, you know that it’s one of the most idyllic places for you and your friends to take a boat out for fishing, swimming in the ocean, or just to enjoy the tranquility of the open water. Sometimes, you might want to crack a beer or two while you do it.
While drinking and boating is not in itself a crime, operating a boat while impaired by the effects of alcohol or drugs is a criminal offense. This is known as a BUI, and the penalties can be severe for those caught with too much alcohol in their system.
If you have been charged with a BUI, contact The Law Place to enlist qualified legal counsel as soon as possible. Our criminal defense attorneys in Sarasota have the experience necessary to defend you from a first, second, third, or even fourth BUI charge. You could face years in prison, thousands of dollars in fines, and the loss of your job and financial freedom because of inadequate defense.
The Law Place offers a free consultation where you can get all the information you need on the specifics of the charges against you and how we can help prepare your defense. All our legal fees will be explained upfront, so you won’t be hit with any surprise costs for our representation.
Contact the best law firm in Sarasota County now to start preparing your BUI defense.
Call The Law Place today at (941) 444-4444.
In This Article
- What is BUI?
- Florida BUI Statistics
- Is BUI the Same as a DUI in Florida?
- Is BUI a Felony?
- What Are the Penalties for BUI?
- What if Someone Under-21 is Caught Drinking and Boating?
- How is Impairment Measured for BUI?
- How Likely is Jail Time for a First-Time BUI?
- Is There an Alternative to Jail Time for BUI Convictions?
- Who Has Authority Over BUI Arrests?
- Do Authorities Have the Right to Randomly Inspect My Vessel?
- How Can a BUI Charge Be Dismissed?
- Contact The Law Place Boating Under the Influence Attorneys Today!
What is BUI?
Boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, BUI, for short, is a criminal offense for operating a boat while impaired by the effects of legal or illicit substances. BWI (boating while intoxicated) is another term that is used interchangeably with BUI.
Drinking and boating is not a crime but boating while impaired will constitute a BUI. In Florida, the legal threshold for impairment is boating with a BAC (blood alcohol content) of .08% or above. This is the same as the measure for impairment while operating a motor vehicle, otherwise known as a DUI charge.
It is important to know who is responsible for driving the boat. Often, people will switch off who is at the helm and managing the boat’s functions. Under Florida Statute 327.02, the boat’s operator is defined as the one who is in charge of or commands the vessel or is responsible for the navigation of the boat through Florida waters. This is typically the boat’s owner if they are present but can also be the designated operator of the boat for the time in question.
Even if other people are intoxicated while boating, only the legally defined operator of the vessel will be charged with BUI.
For a free legal consultation with a boating under the influence lawyer serving Sarasota, call 941-444-4444
Florida BUI Statistics
Florida has the most coastline in the continental United States. The only state with more is Alaska, where not nearly the same amount of people live. This means that Florida likely has the most boaters on the water in the entire country. According to the 2013 Fish and Wildlife Commission Boating Accidents Statistical Report, there were 896,632 registered boats in Florida and an estimated 1 million unregistered boats. That’s nearly 2 million boats in Florida waters, about 1 boat for every 10 people in the state.
With so much coastline and so many boaters, it is no surprise that Florida leads the nation in BUI arrests and convictions. Many defendants charged with BUI also have a DUI conviction on their record, and many arrests for BUI are those who have a suspended driver’s license due to a DUI.
Over 15% of the 736 recorded boating accidents were due to the influence of alcohol or drugs. Also, 15% of all fatal boating accidents were due to the fault of the operator, not other factors.
Sarasota Boating Under the Influence Lawyer Near Me 941-444-4444
Is BUI the Same as a DUI in Florida?
The measure for impairment and the penalties for a BUI are nearly identical to a DUI. However, a BUI does not affect your driver’s license. As Florida does not require boating licenses to operate a standard sea vessel, BUI is not an administrative charge like a DUI is. The DMV or other relevant authorities cannot penalize you the same as they would a DUI.
However, you may be deprived of your privilege to operate a boating vessel for some time after your arrest. Also, you may be forced to take a boating safety course to regain the privilege, even if you have already taken one in the past.
Is BUI a Felony?
The answer to whether boating under the influence is a felony charge will depend on whether you have any previous BUI offenses on your criminal record.
A first or second BUI will not usually constitute a felony offense. However, a third BUI charge within 10 years of a previous conviction is considered a third-degree felony. Also, a fourth BUI is a third-degree felony as well. However, there is no lookback period for a fourth offense, and it will be prosecuted as a felony regardless of how much time has passed since the previous conviction.
If your first or second BUI resulted in serious bodily injury, high amounts of property damage, or wrongful death, your charge could be upgraded to a felony.
A felony BUI charge is extremely serious and can result in years in prison. Contact The Law Place now if you have been charged with a felony to start preparing your defense immediately.
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What Are the Penalties for BUI?
The exact penalties for your DUI charge are up to the judge overseeing your case and what sentencing the prosecution may recommend to the court. This sentencing can depend on several factors, including:
- How many BUI convictions you have on your record.
- Whether there was any bodily injury or property damage because of your actions or level of impairment.
- Whether there was a minor in the boat at the time of your arrest.
- Your blood alcohol content at the time of your arrest.
The following schedule lists the penalties available for boating under the influence under Florida law as per Florida Statute 327.35:
- Fines not less than $500 or more than $1,000.
- Imprisonment of not more than 6 months.
- If a minor was in the boat at the time of the arrest or BAC was .15 or above, fines are increased to a minimum of $1,000 and a maximum of $2,000.
- If a minor was present at the time of the arrest or BAC was .15 or above, imprisonment is increased to a maximum of 9 months.
- 50 hours of community service.
- Boat impoundment for 10 days.
- Fines not less than $1,000 or more than $2,000.
- Imprisonment of not more than 9 months.
- If a minor was in the boat at the time of the arrest or BAC was .15 or above, fines are increased to a minimum of $2,000 and a maximum of $4,000.
- If a minor was present at the time of the arrest or BAC was .15 or above, imprisonment is increased to a maximum of 12 months.
- 50 hours of community service.
- Boat impoundment for 10 days.
If the conviction occurs more than 10 years after a previous conviction, a third BUI is punishable by:
- Fines not less than $2,000 or more than $5,000.
- Imprisonment of not more than 12 months.
- If a minor was present at the time of the arrest or BAC was .15 or above, fines are increased to a minimum of $4,000.
If the conviction occurs within 10 years of a previous conviction, a third BUI is a felony in the third degree punishable by:
- Fines not less than $2,000 or more than $5,000.
- Minimum consecutive imprisonment of 30 days and not more than 5 years.
No matter when previous convictions occurred, a fourth BUI is a felony in the third degree punishable by:
- Fines not less than $2,000 or more than $5,000.
- Imprisonment of not more than 5 years.
If your BUI resulted in death, you could be charged with a felony in the first or second degree. This is a much more extreme crime, and the punishment is similarly severe. You can face up to $10,000 in fines and be served up to 30 years imprisonment for a first-degree felony and 15 years for a second-degree felony.
Be aware that a previous DUI on your record will count towards the enhancement of the penalties of your BUI charge. Also, a previous BUI will similarly count towards the enhancement of BUI penalties.
What if Someone Under-21 is Caught Drinking and Boating?
Like drinking and driving laws in Florida, there is a zero-tolerance policy in place for minors and persons under the age of 21 caught drinking and operating a boat. This means that the .08% blood alcohol content threshold does not apply. If minors are caught with any alcohol in their system whatsoever, measured as a .02 BAC content, they can be arrested and charged with BUI.
The penalties for minors convicted of BUI are severe. The State of Florida hopes to deter any acts of criminal drinking and boating by persons under 21 and employs tough laws to make this happen.
As listed by Florida Statute 322.2616, penalties for an underage BUI can result in an automatic 50 hours of community service. The minor cannot operate a boat until these hours are completed. A judge may determine further punishment is necessary, especially if the person in question is over 18.
How is Impairment Measured for BUI?
Police officers or other relevant authorities such as the coast guard measure for BUI in several ways. These can include but are not limited to:
- Portable breath test – Boat patrol officers are more likely to be carrying a portable breathalyzer. This measures BAL (breath alcohol level) and determines the level of intoxication of the boat operator.
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) – Officer tracks the operator’s eye movement using a pen or flashlight and looks for an inability to follow or move smoothly.
- Slurred speech – Officer listens for a slurred or sloppy speech pattern.
Most field sobriety tests are not possible on a civilian boat as it’s difficult to accurately measure coordination. However, law enforcement officials may bring you onto their police boat to perform field sobriety tests, or if you are close to shore, then they may take you to shore to perform them.
Implied consent laws apply to BUI laws in the same way they do with driving under the influence. Florida Statute 327.352 states all operators of motor vehicles, including sea vessels, consent to be tested for the undue influence of drugs or alcohol. Failure to consent to a breath test or other chemical tests is a civil infraction punishable by $500 in fines. A second refusal is a misdemeanor crime punishable by up to 12 months in jail under Florida law.
If you are being asked to perform a breathalyzer exam, contact The Law Place as soon as possible. Our criminal defense lawyers will advise you of the best way to interact with law enforcement officers and whether you should consent to chemical tests or not. However, it is best to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in court, and police officers are not required to read your Miranda rights before they arrest you.
How Likely is Jail Time for a First-Time BUI?
Jail time is unlikely for a first-time BUI. Although there is a maximum jail sentence of 6 months associated with a first-time BUI charge, judges and prosecutors do not usually hand this sort of punishment out to first offenders.
However, if your BUI resulted in bodily injury or property damage, the likelihood of jail time increases. If you are caught with a BAC of .15, which is considered dangerously drunk, the likelihood similarly increases.
If you are afraid that your BUI charge can result in jail time, even for your first offense, call The Law Place today to enlist the aid of a qualified BUI attorney. We have the experience necessary to help you avoid jail time at all costs.
Is There an Alternative to Jail Time for BUI Convictions?
The judge has it within their discretion to provide an alternative sentence for jail time. You may be able to serve your sentence in an alcohol rehabilitation clinic or through community service. However, this is an unlikely outcome for second, third, or fourth BUI offenses.
You will need a good lawyer to get an alternative punishment to jail time. Contact The Law Place to see how we can help you today.
Who Has Authority Over BUI Arrests?
It is generally understood that the coast guard has the most authority on the water. Despite this fact, they do not typically handle BUI arrests except in extreme circumstances. The hassle and paperwork necessary for a federal agency to arrest individuals caught excessively drinking, and boating doesn’t match the resources the coast guard has at their disposal.
Even if coast guard officials catch impaired boaters in Sarasota waters, they are likely to hand off the arrest to the County Sherriff’s Department or other relevant local authorities. This means that even if you are arrested by members of the coast guard, your arrest will typically be processed by the local police.
Local police also have jurisdiction in Florida waters, although to a lesser extent than the coast guard.
Do Authorities Have the Right to Randomly Inspect My Vessel?
Unlike DUI charges, law enforcement officials do not need probable cause to request an inspection of your vessel. Under US Code Title 14, a random or “administrative” spot check does not constitute a gross violation of 4th amendment privacy. The federal agency has the right to check boats for safety hazards, necessary equipment, and legal upkeep of the boat itself, as well as illegal activities. If in the process of their inspection, they find evidence of illegal activity, such as BUI, any evidence they collect can be used against you.
Any evidence that the police collect while performing administrative checks can be used against you, including acting as evidence for your BUI arrest.
How Can a BUI Charge Be Dismissed?
There are fewer ways to get boating under the influence charges dismissed than there are to contest a DUI. This is because of the lack of evidence that a BUI entails (no field sobriety tests, etc.). A qualified BUI attorney will examine the following and look for any legal discrepancies:
- The legality of the boating stop.
- If proper procedures for taking a breath sample were followed by the arresting officers.
- Prove that you were not the designated operator of the vessel.
A judge may also choose to have the charges against you dismissed. Although this is unlikely, it does happen. Some reasons why a judge may choose to do so are:
- Granting leniency – If it is your first BUI or DUI offense, a judge may choose to reduce the charges against you.
- Mishandling of evidence – If police mishandled or illegally obtained evidence used against you, a judge might choose to have your case dismissed.
- Lack of evidence – If there isn’t enough evidence to convict you, the judge or prosecution may dismiss the charges. This is especially unlikely because cases usually don’t move forward without sufficient evidence to convict.
Contact The Law Place Boating Under the Influence Attorneys Today!
Have you been charged with BUI in Sarasota County? Are you unsure of who takes the blame and whether you will get jail time for your actions?
Contact The Law Place Sarasota BUI lawyers today. Our team has experience representing defendants all over the State of Florida in boating under the influence cases. We have an excellent track record of getting our clients off their charges or getting their charges reduced. With over 75 years of combined experience, we’ll use our in-depth knowledge of Sarasota County law to fight your BUI case, providing excellent legal advice along the way.
The Law Place offers a free consultation where you can speak with one of our attorneys and get all the information you need to confidently move forward with your defense.
Don’t wait until you’re in front of the judge to start pleading your case. Start preparing today by contacting the best criminal defense law firm in Sarasota County.
Call The Law Place now at (941) 444-4444.