Thousands of tourists visit Florida every year, with the key selling point being the beautiful beaches and water activities, such as boating. However, you may not realize that BUI (boating under the influence) is a serious charge. The penalties for which mirror those for a DUI (driving under the influence).
For both of these crimes, if your actions led to an injury and you were found to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and an accident occurred, you could be facing harsh penalties, including many years in prison, community service, and hefty fines.
If you face a BUI charge, you should speak to a BUI boating attorney as soon as possible. At The Law Place, we operate throughout Florida, and our Sarasota BUI lawyers have handled numerous cases similar to yours. We understand the intricacies of BUI law and will do everything possible to secure a dismissal of your case or a reduction to the charges you receive and the penalties you face.
Contact us today for a free consultation in Sarasota, FL. on (941) 444-4444.
Boating Under the Influence in Sarasota, Florida
The laws around boating under the influence are very similar to those that apply when driving a car. The law states that you cannot operate any vehicle or vessel while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Alcohol levels can be tested by breath or blood, and if you have a BAC (blood alcohol level or breath-alcohol level) of 0.8% or above, you can be charged. Drugs can be either prescription or illegal substances that have, in some way, impaired your normal faculties.
The circumstances where it can be claimed that your normal faculties are impaired are outlined in Florida Statute 316.1934. It includes an impaired ability to talk, walk, hear, see, judge distances, make judgments, and normally perform physical and mental acts. It is a broad term and is dependent on the judgment of law enforcement.
Depending on your BUI circumstances, such as whether you had a minor on board, if you had a particularly high BAC (0.15% or above), you have previous BUI or DUI convictions, or you caused an injury, your penalties will differ. They include jail time, community service, monetary fines, a boating ban, and other repercussions outlined in Florida Statute 327.35.
Definition of Operating a Vessel in Florida
The word ‘operating’ in relation to BUI charges means being in charge of, in command, or actually controlling a boat or vessel on any waters. It can also include having responsibility for the navigation or safety of the vessel while it is moving. It can even include steering the boat that is being pulled by another vessel.
Penalties for Boating Under the Influence in Sarasota, Florida
The penalties are as below unless other factors are at play, such as a minor on board or you caused an injury, in which case the penalties will increase.
- A first conviction – A fine ranging between $500 and $1000 and a prison sentence of up to 6 months.
- A second conviction – A fine ranging between $1,000 and $2,000 and a prison sentence of up to nine months.
- A third conviction – Where at least one prior conviction occurred within the last ten years, you will be charged with a third-degree felony. This will result in a fine of up to $5,000 and a prison sentence of up to 5 years. If previous convictions were more than ten years prior, the fine would be between $2,000 and $5,000 with a prison sentence of up to 12 months.
- A fourth or subsequent conviction – Also a third-degree felony, which carries a possible prison sentence of 5 years and a fine between $2000 and $5,000.
Prior convictions include previous convictions for boating under the influence and driving under the influence.
BUI Resulting in Injury or Death in Sarasota, Florida
If you face a charge of BUI resulting in injury or death, you must seek legal advice as soon as possible so that your Sarasota criminal defense lawyer can begin investigating your case.
Regardless of any previous convictions, if your impairment led to an accident that causes injures, penalties will be severe.
- If an accident causes damage to property or any injury to another person, the operator will face a conviction for a first-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
- If the accident resulted in serious bodily injury to a person, the operator would face a conviction for a third-degree felony, which is punishable by up to five years’ in state prison and a fine of up to $5,000. Serious bodily injury includes any injury that causes a substantial risk of death, disfigurement, or loss or impairment of a bodily function, organ, or mental faculty. It is more than a superficial injury and either takes a long time to heal or may never heal fully.
- If the accident resulted in a person’s death, the operator would be charged with a second-degree felony, and penalties include up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. If the person failed to stop the vessel, they could be charged with manslaughter, a first-degree felony that can be punished up to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
Enhanced Penalties for Elevated Blood Alcohol Concentration or Children Present
There are enhanced penalties for those who are found guilty of either operating a vessel with a high BAC (above 0.15%) or those guilting of boating under the influence with children onboard (under 18).
- A first conviction – A fine ranging between $1,000 and $2,000 and a prison sentence for up to nine months.
- A second conviction – A fine ranging between $2,000 and $4,000, and a prison sentence for up to 12 months.
- A third or subsequent conviction – A minimum fine of $4000.
Other Penalties in Florida
As well as fines and a prison sentence, there are other penalties associated with boating under the influence. They include:
- A first BUI conviction – Up to one year of probation, and 50 hours of community service.
- A second BUI conviction – If the second offense is within 5 years of the first, then a prison sentence of at least 10 days is mandatory.
- A third or subsequent BUI conviction – If a third offense occurred within 10 years of any other conviction, then a prison sentence of at least 30 days is mandatory.
The court is also obliged to order the temporary impoundment of the vessel that the person operated while intoxicated. The offender must also complete a substance abuse program, which they must pay for themselves. If deemed appropriate, the substance abuse program can be at a more intense facility.
Mandatory Detention Following Arrest
If you are arrested on suspicion of BUI, then you will be required to remain in custody until:
- The effects of alcohol or drugs have worn off.
- Your BAC has dropped to below 0.05%.
- Eight hours have passed since the arrest.
Investigation of BUI’s in Florida
Depending on where someone is operating the vessel, either on inland waters or ocean waters, several law enforcement agencies can apprehend a boat or begin an investigation. It could be that an officer or warder observe a boat moving in an erratic or unsafe manner. For example, it is swerving back and forth or coming close to other water users unsafely. Law enforcement may also decide to stop a boat due to reports from other boaters or witnesses who believe it is being handled unsafely.
However, unlike when law enforcement stops a car on the road, they do not need probable cause to stop a boat. They can randomly check that you are acting safely and in line with the law.
Once law enforcement has stopped a boat, they can require a breath sample while still on the water, or if you are near shore, they may bring the suspect back to land. They can arrest someone if they see that their breath is above the 0.8% limit, or they can perform other sobriety tests such as field sobriety tests. It is up to the officer’s judgment to determine if they have probable cause to arrest someone for a possible BUI.
BUI Defense Lawyer in Florida
If you were arrested for operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, then you should contact a law firm for legal advice as soon as possible, especially if injuries were sustained in the accident.
At The Law Place, an honest attorney-client relationship is of the utmost importance to us. In your free consultation, we will explain what we can do for you, our fee structure, and what your next steps should be.
We will get straight to work developing a defense strategy that will cast doubt on the credibility and reliability of the evidence brought against you. Some common defenses that your lawyer could use include:
- The evidence of intoxication is lacking – Even blood and breath tests have been known to be inaccurate. Furthermore, observations can be subjective. Red eyes and trouble balancing could be signs of a different condition unrelated to drugs or alcohol.
- The correct procedure was not followed – There is a certain procedure that law enforcement officers must follow when they collect a breath or blood sample for testing. If each step was not followed, then the evidence could be thrown out, which would make it more difficult for you to be convicted. They must also ask questions in the initial contact, and the accused must be read their Miranda warnings.
Does a BUI Affect Your Driver’s License in Florida?
If you are convicted of a BUI in Sarasota, this should not affect your driver’s license. However, this is no reason to take a BUI lightly, especially one that resulted in injuries.
On the flip side, if you have been charged with a DUI, you can still drive a boat in Florida.
Why You Should Seek Help From The Law Place in Florida
Although a BUI may not affect your driving privileges, the consequences are severe. As well as jail time and fines, if convicted, you will have a criminal record that could haunt you for the rest of your life.
At The Law Place, many of our criminal defense attorneys are AVVO. rated 10.0, the highest possible rating. This is based on things like years in service, awards, and client reviews. We are committed to a strong attorney-client relationship, and we are here to listen, support and fight for the best possible outcome.
In a free consultation, we will give you all of the information you need to make an informed decision about your representation. If you agree to representation from us, then we will, with your permission, assess your case as a team. That way, you can benefit from our combined experience, which spans over 75 years. At which point, you will receive a lawyer who oversees your case and is ready to stand with you in court.
We are open 24/7 so contact our Florida law firm for a free consultation on (941)-444-4444.