Summer is upon Floridians, which means recreational boating activities abound. But having an intoxicated boater operate a vessel or any water vehicle is a criminal offense in the state.
Boating under the influence (BUI) is much like a driving under the influence (DUI) charge. If proven that a “designated driver” has impaired faculties due to drugs or alcohol, and has a .08% or greater blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC), then they may be subject to steep fines and considerable years of imprisonment.
The severity of punishment for a BUI charge depends on a range of factors. The court often checks whether the offender:
- Has prior BUI records
- Has excessive BAC upon arrest
- Is below 18 or has minors on board while committing the crime
- Is responsible for any injury, death or property damage in an accident
Upon a first conviction, fines may be as much as $1,000 and up to six months of incarceration. Meanwhile, a second offense entails more severe consequences worth a maximum of $2,000 fine and nine months in prison. A third conviction is a third-degree felony punishable by as much as a $5,000 fine and up to a year in jail.
Additional penalties include administrative fees, boat impoundment, and participation in community service and substance abuse programs.
Further, given legitimate probable cause to pull over your boat, authorities could also submit you to breath, blood, urine or sobriety tests to check your eligibility to operate the vessel. However, unlike in a DUI situation, test refusal does not result in license suspension. Instead, you must pay $500 on your first refusal. Then, subsequent refusals may lead to a misdemeanor offense.
Build your boating defense
Given multiple considerations, nuances and overlaps with DUI laws, it will be wise not to face a BUI charge alone. With your current and future employment, relationships and reputation at stake, you must work with a defense team to devise a specialized strategy plan for the unique facts of your case.