Boating Under the Influence (BUI) Attorney Tampa Bay

Florida Boating Violations and BUI Attorney

Under Florida law, Statute 327.35, a person commits BUI if they are operating a vessel under the influence of alcoholic beverages or other controlled substances to the extent that their normal faculties are impaired or have a blood or breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or higher.

The Basics of a BUI

Who’s Driving? Usually, the operator is the person driving the boat. But a boat can be operated without a driver. If it’s unclear who the operator is, the owner can be considered the operator. It is unlawful for the operator to designate a driver who is physically or mentally incapable of operating the boat. So make sure if you hand over your keys, it’s to someone who has not been drinking!

It’s Easier to Get Stopped Driving a Boat: Unlike driving a car, where a police officer must have probable cause before pulling you over for DUI, they do NOT need probable cause to stop your boat. The police can make an arrest for any criminal violation without needing reasonable suspicion for the initial stop.

It’s Easier to Get Searched Driving a Boat: Police are allowed to check your boat for compliance with bag limits, proper safety equipment, permits, and registration certificates. If you fail to produce registration, or the officer believes there’s a violation, the officer can board the boat and perform an inspection. Anything seen in plain view is fair game. Keep in mind that no one can board your boat for inspection if the owner or operator is not on board.

Sneaky Field Sobriety Exercises: By asking you to produce the above-listed items, the officer creates an opportunity to observe you for signs of impairment as you move about the boat collecting the items. If he believes you are BUI, he can investigate further.

Breathalyzer Evidence: Preliminary breath tests with a portable breath/alcohol analyzer are presumed accurate and results are admissible in BUI prosecutions.

Florida BUI Penalties

BUI Fines and Penalties: These can be as severe as DUI penalties, with potential fines as high as $1,000 and up to 6 months in jail for a first-time conviction. Penalties are even greater if damage is done to someone else or their property.

BUI Manslaughter: If someone dies as a result of a person operating a vessel under the influence, it’s a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. If an operator flees the scene of a boating accident without rendering aid as required, it’s a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Refusing a Breath Test: The first time an operator refuses a BUI test, they will be given a $500 fine which, if not paid within 30 days, will become a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, one year probation, and a $1000 fine. The second time an operator refuses a BUI test will result in a first-degree misdemeanor.

Under 21: Operators under the age of 21 are considered impaired if they have a blood-alcohol content of 0.02 percent or higher.

Other Consequences of a BUI Conviction: Include having your boat impounded or immobilized, mandatory drug evaluation and treatment as a condition of probation, mandatory community service hours

Were You Charged With a BUI in Tampa Bay? Call Clark Hartpence Law

In the event that you find yourself facing criminal charges for BUI or are injured or involved in a BUI boating accident or violation, please call (855) 680-4911 or schedule your free consultation online so that we can protect your claim and discuss your legal options. We represent victims who are injured in all types of accident cases.

Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.