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BUI — Boating Under the Influence in Florida

Posted by Fred Koberlein, Jr. | Apr 25, 2017 | 0 Comments

BUI Arrest
Boating Under the Influence

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol is the leading factor in fatal boating accidents where the cause is known. Other facts about BUI in Florida that law enforcement and prosecutors concern themselves with are:

  • Alcohol is often more of an impairment to boaters than drivers because many recreational boaters do not have the same level of experience handling a boat that they do driving a vehicle. The lack of experience combined with alcohol can be deadly.
  • With just a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .035, a boater's ability to operate the boat safely is impaired.
  • Alcohol impairs your coordination and judgment, two of the skills that are essential when operating a boat.
  • The boat's environment (i.e. vibration, motion, wind, spray, sun, and engine noise) accelerates the rate alcohol impairs a boater's abilities.

Florida leads the country in boating fatalities each year, and one-third of those fatalities involve alcohol use. Boating under the influence (BUI) of alcohol is a crime that is taken extremely seriously in Florida. Law enforcement agencies throughout the state have stepped up their enforcement efforts for BUI, especially as the boating season gets underway full steam.

Is Drinking Alcohol and Boating Illegal?

It is not illegal to enjoy alcoholic beverages while boating. It is illegal to operate a boat while impaired by alcohol. Florida law presumes that you are impaired by alcohol when your BAC reaches .08 or higher. For anyone under the age of 21 years, the legal BAC limit for BUI is .02 or higher. However, you can be arrested for BUI even if your breath, urine, or blood alcohol content is lower than the legal limit.

Florida law states that BUI occurs when the BAC is at or above the legal limit OR a law enforcement officer suspects that a driver's normal faculties (i.e. mental or physical abilities) are impaired by alcohol. Deciding if a boater's “normal faculties” is impaired by alcohol is a judgment call. In some cases, a law enforcement officer makes a mistake. BUI laws pertain to all types of boats, including yachts, fishing boats, canoes, speed boats, rowboats, and skiing boats.

When a boater's "normal faculties" are impaired is the most often litigated factor in a BUI!  It is extremely important for you to contact a BUI attorney immediately if you have been charged with BUI. You need an experienced BUI lawyer to investigate the circumstances surrounding your BUI arrest to determine if the officer had probable cause and sufficient evidence to make a BUI arrest.  Additionally, collect the contact information of everyone that saw you prior to and after the officer interacted with you, this information is going to be critical in impeaching the officer's observations about your "normal faculties".  

What is the Penalty for a BUI Conviction in Florida?

The penalties for a BUI conviction in Florida is severe for a reason. Lawmakers want to discourage drinking and boating with harsh penalties and mandatory minimum punishments.

Below are the criminal penalties for boating under the influence:

  • BUI First Offense – A fine of not less than $500 and/or up to six months in a county jail
  • BUI Second Offense – A fine of not less than $1,000 and/or up to 9 months in a county jail
  • BUI Third Offense (within ten years) – A fine up to $5,000 and up to five years in a state prison facility
  • BUI Third Offense (outside ten years)  – A fine of not less than $2,000 and up to 12 months in county jail.    

Also, see the Florida law on BUI.  

How Can I Avoid a Boating Under the Influence Charge?

If you want to enjoy alcohol while boating, there are some steps you can take to decrease the risk of boating under the influence.

  • Have plenty of water and non-alcoholic drinks available onboard.
  • Bring a variety of snacks and food.
  • If you are drinking with meals, dock during your meal and wait at least an hour for each drink before you operate your boat.
  • Limit your trip to avoid fatigue.
  • Designate a driver who will refrain from drinking alcohol.
  • Wear comfortable clothes that will keep you cool.
  • Be extra cautious during holidays when more boaters are on the water and drinking alcohol increases.

Call a Lake City BUI Attorney or Live Oak BUI Attorney Immediately!

If you know that you have had too much to drink while boating, you need to exercise your right to remain silent except for requesting your attorney. You need an attorney who is trained and experienced in handling boating-related offenses, including boating under the influence of alcohol.

We urge you to contact our BUI attorneys to build a strong defense to the charges you face. Our lawyers represent clients throughout Lake City, Live Oak, Gainesville and the surrounding areas. Contact the Koberlein Law Offices by calling our Lake City office at 386-269-9802 or our Gainesville office at 352-519-4357 to schedule a free consultation. You may also contact our office by using the contact form on our website.

About the Author

Fred Koberlein, Jr.

Fred Koberlein is a trial attorney who opened Koberlein Law Offices after acquiring extensive legal experience in three legal practice areas, which are: personal injury law; criminal defense; and local government matters which require you to appear or present your matter before your local government Boards, government Councils, and government Agencies. Mr. Koberlein began trial preparation through an externship as a legal clerk with the Judges of the Third Judicial Circuit for Florida prior to his graduation from the University of Florida, College of Law.  After law school Mr. Koberlein was dedicated to becoming a trial attorney and worked with the Public Defender's Office from 2004 to 2007, where he was promoted to handling felony cases within eight months of hire.  Mr.  Koberlein has handled over 1500 criminal cases ranging from possession of cannabis, DUI, serious felonies, white-collar crimes, violations of probation hearings, and countless motion hearings. Mr.  Koberlein began practicing in the areas of personal injury and insurance defense during 2006.  Mr. Koberlein's experience in prosecuting personal injury claims against those insurance companies he was not representing and defending other insurance companies and their customers provided a unique experience where he was able to learn what each side anticipates from the opposing party.Next, Mr. Koberlein was hired by a City to defend the City's interests and three additional Cities quickly followed and retained Mr. Koberlein to protect their interests.  Currently, Mr. Koberlein represents a total of four (4) municipalities in the North Florida area.  As Mr. Koberlein focused on civil litigation he remained passionate about representing individuals charged with misdemeanor and felony crimes as well as civil litigation issues. Mr.  Koberlein has the experience and reputation to negotiate a favorable resolution in your matter, and if that is not possible, to provide the best, most zealous trial representation available.  Utilizing competent and trusted investigators and experts, your case will be prepared so that the best result will be achieved.  If you or a loved one is hurt, damaged, or is facing criminal charges, you want a qualified, hard-working attorney who will explain your options to you in a straightforward, commonsense, and honest manner. Education and Practice Experience: University of Florida; Gainesville, Florida; Bachelor of Science, 1997 University of South Florida; Tampa, Florida; 1998 University of Florida, College of Law; Gainesville, Florida; 2003 Bar and Court Admissions: Florida Bar, 2004 – Present All 67 Counties in Florida All 20 Circuits in Florida U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida Professional and Civic Activities: Florida Bar Trial Lawyers, 2007 – Present Florida Bar Business Law Section, 2007 – Present Florida Bar Criminal Law Section, 2004 – Present Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, 2004 – Present Third Judicial Bar Association, 2004 – Present Mr.  Koberlein is committed to his clients and devotes himself to protecting their interests from the beginning to the end of their case.  Mr. Koberlein has spent his career helping clients defend themselves against criminal charges, fight insurance companies, and proceed through the bureaucratic process of local governments.  Mr. Koberlein welcomes the opportunity to meet with you and evaluate your legal needs and provide you with an experienced and competent analysis.

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