The state of Florida takes boating while impaired very seriously, especially since, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, the state leads the nation in the annual number of boating deaths and boating accidents. In 2014, the state reported 634 boating accidents and 73 fatalities as a result of a boating accident. The majority of these accidents occur during the month of May, followed by July and April, and most of the accidents occurred between four and six p.m. Further, estimates place the number of boating accidents with resulting fatalities in the state of Florida which can be attributed to the use of alcohol at nearly 30 percent.
As a result of the above statistics, if you have been charged with Boating Under the Influence (BUI), you should expect your case to be prosecuted aggressively. For that reason, having a DUI attorney from The Law Place by your side can potentially allow the charges to be reduced, or dropped entirely. The goal of your DUI attorney will be to work hard on your behalf for the least serious consequences to your insurance rates, your driver’s license, your pocketbook, and your future.
Boating Under the Influence in the State of Florida
The primary issues associated with the crime of BUI in the state of Florida is that it is not actually illegal to drink alcohol and drive a boat. The crime occurs only after enough alcohol has been consumed as to render the driver of the boat over the state’s legal limit of 0.08 percent, or when the consumption of alcohol or any chemical substance has impaired the boat driver’s normal faculties. (For a person under the age of 21, the legal limit for BUI is 0.02%). As you might expect, this can be a fairly subjective call on the part of the police officer.
Further, while an officer must have probable cause to pull you over—you must have exhibited an unsafe boating behavior, violated a regulation, or were obviously speeding—officers are also allowed to stop a boat for random inspections. This “inspection” can relate to your safety registration, an equipment check, or fishing compliance. During an inspection, an officer may ask the boat operator to perform sobriety exercises, a chemical test, or a hand-held breath test.
Penalties for Boating Under the Influence in the State of Florida
If you are convicted of Boating Under the Influence in the state of Florida, your exact penalties will depend on a number of issues, including:
- Whether your BAC was excessive (significantly over the legal limit);
- Whether you have prior BUIs or DUIs;
- Whether there was a person under the age of 18 in your boat at the time you were stopped, and
- Whether your level of impairment was responsible for an accident which resulted in injury to another person or persons, death to another person or persons, or property damage.
Generally speaking, your BUI will be charged as a second-degree misdemeanor if this is your first offense, meaning your penalties could include:
- Fines from $500 to $1,000;
- Up to six months in Florida County Jail;
- 50 hours of community service, and
- Boat impoundment for a period of ten days.
If you are being charged with a second BUI, you will likely be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor, and could face a maximum of nine months in jail, and a fine as large as $2,000. If your second conviction for BUI occurs within five years of a prior BUI or DUI conviction, you will spend a minimum of ten days in jail and your boat will be impounded for 30 days. If you are being charged with a third BUI, and you have a prior BUI or DUI conviction within the past ten years, you will be charged with a third-degree felony, and could face up to five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. At a minimum you will spend 30 days in jail. If your last prior BUI or DUI occurred more than ten years ago, you will be charged with a misdemeanor, and face up to a year in jail and fines from $2,000 to $5,000.
The court, in its discretion, may require a defendant to serve all or any portion of a jail term in a residential alcohol or drug abuse treatment program.
Why You Need Experienced Legal Help
As you can see, the consequences of a BUI are very serious. You should immediately contact a Florida criminal defense attorney after being charged with BUI. The DUI attorneys at The Law Place understand that many good people make a bad decision or mistake. We want to help you minimize the long-term effects a BUI will have on your life. Don’t wait—contact The Law Place today at 941-444-4444.