With the second-highest number of alcohol-related boating accidents in the nation, and the highest number of boating fatalities, the state of Florida has implemented some fairly harsh penalties for Boating Under the Influence (BUI), especially when property damage or injury are involved. One-third of all boating accidents in the state of Florida involve a driver who is under the influence of alcohol. Boating is a favored activity in the state of Florida, due to the abundance of beaches, bays, rivers and lakes.
Just like operating a motor vehicle while impaired, it is also against the law to operate a boat if you are over the legal 0.08 percent limit. If you do so, and end up causing property damage or injury to another person, under Florida Statutes, Section 327.35, you could face such penalties as fines, jail time, community service, mandatory substance abuse counseling and more.
How Florida DUI and BUI Penalties and Punishments are Alike and Different
Just as with subsequent DUI convictions, each BUI conviction brings enhanced penalties. Both DUI and BUI charges bring a requirement of submission to a blood, breath or urine test, however unlike DUI charges, should you refuse these tests, you will be subject to a $500 fine rather than suspension of driving privileges. You can challenge the fine through an administrative hearing which is separate from your criminal charges.
Unlike driving a car—which requires probable cause for the officer to search—your boat may be stopped by an officer and (legally) boarded. The reason can be to check your boat registration, to determine if you are safely operating your boat, or even to enforce fishing laws. In other words, the officer is not required to show proof that he believed a criminal activity was occurring on your boat and, in some cases, BUI arrests result when an officer boards the boat during docking, then determining impairment of the driver.
The officer may require you to perform field sobriety tests and may even tow your boat to shore in order to have you perform these tests on dry land. If a boating accident occurred and property damage or injury resulted, blood testing is allowed. Breath or urine tests are likely to be conducted at the jail, following the arrest.
Penalties for Boating Under the Influence Resulting in Property Damage or Injury
The penalties and punishments for Boating Under the Influence Resulting in Property Damage are as follows:
- You will face a misdemeanor of the first-degree;
- You could face up to twelve months in jail;
- Fines as large as $1,000, and/or
If your BUI resulted in bodily injuries, you could face:
- A third-degree felony;
- A maximum of five years in prison, and
- Fines and fees up to $5,000.
If your BAC was .15 or greater, you had children or youth under the age of 18 on board the boat, or you are a repeat offender, your penalties will increase according.
If you are sentenced to jail, the court, in its discretion, may require you to serve all or any portion of your jail term in a residential alcohol or drug abuse treatment program.
Potential Defenses to BUI Charges
Your specific defense will depend on the circumstances surrounding your BUI arrest, however just as with DUI charges, challenges as to whether there was probable cause to board your boat or probable cause to believe you were impaired, could result in the suppression of evidence. There may be a question as to who was actually driving the boat, and field sobriety tests may be deemed inadmissible, leaving insufficient evidence to prosecute you. Breath and blood testing may also provide certain issues which can lead to favorable results of your BUI case.
Why You Need an Experienced Florida BUI Attorney
Just as with a DUI, your freedom and your future are at stake when you are charged with BUI resulting in property damage or injury. A skilled, reputable Florida BUI attorney from The Law Place can immediately start building a defense on your behalf. It is important that you take your charges seriously, and that you have an experienced BUI attorney from The Law Place in your corner, from start to finish. Don’t wait—Contact The Law Place today at 941-444-4444