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.