According to the U.S. Coast Guard, Florida leads the country in annual boating accidents and deaths. A great deal of these accidents are caused by people drinking alcohol while driving water vessels. While it’s not technically illegal to consume alcohol and drive a boat in Florida, if you are found with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher, you can be arrested and possibly charged with a DUI.
Boating Under the Influence (BUI), is just as serious as driving under the influence—and potentially more dangerous. Because you are on the water, you run the risk of possibly drowning if you aren’t careful.
Florida law defines a vessel as any watercraft, barge, or airboat (other than a seaplane) that you operate on the water or that is capable of being used as a means of transportation on the water.
You can be convicted of a BUI while:
- If you are affected by a substance to the extent your normal faculties areimpaired by drugs, alcohol, or a combination of both; or
- Having a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher (.02 if you are under the age of 21).
The penalties for a BUI vary depending on a number of factors.
These factors include if the operator:
- had a prior BUI;
- had a BAC over the legal limit;
- had a person under the age of 18 in the vessel at the time of the offense; and/or
- contributed to, or caused, an accident involving death, injury, or property damage.
Penalties for repeat offenders are as follows:
- First-Offense BUI
- fine between $500 and $1,000;
- maximum of 6 months in jail; or
- mandatory probation of 50 hours of community service or 10 days of vessel impoundment.
If your blood alcohol level is at least .15% or you have a passenger in the vessel under the age of 18, your penalties will increase to a fine between $1,000 and $2,000 and/or up to 9 months in jail.
- Second-Offense BUI
- fine between $1,000 and $2,000;
- maximum of 9 months in jail; or
- if the second offense occurred within 5 years of a prior BUI or DUI conviction, there is a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 10 days, a fine from $2,000 to $4,000, and up to 12 months in jail.
- Third-Offense BUI
- if the offense occurred within 10 years of a prior conviction, it will be a third-degree felony with a mandatory penalty of up to 5 years in prison and $5,000 in fines; or
if the offense occurred more than 10 years after the most recent conviction, the penalty is up to 12 months in jail and a fine between $2,000 and $5,000.
All third offenders face vessel immobilization or impoundment for 90 days. If the offender’s blood-alcohol level was .15% or higher or they had a passenger under the age of 18, the minimum fine is $4,000.
Aggressive Defense Representation
If you were arrested for a BUI and refused to take a breathalyzer test or are facing charges, our DUI defense attorney can help. Attorney Jody L. Fisher has prosecution experience we useto build a strong defense for all criminal defense clients.
Contact our firm online or give us a call at (352) 503-4111 for a consultation.