Boating Under the Influence

Boating Under the Influence in Florida

Whether they are tourists or residents, many people enjoy fishing, skiing, and recreational boating in Florida. While out on a boat, it is not uncommon to want to drink a beer or wine. Although it is legal to consume alcohol on a boat in Florida, you should not operate the boat under the influence of alcohol. If you have a low tolerance for alcohol, you should not drink while boating at all, and if you have a high tolerance, you still should not drink excessively. Failure to follow safety precautions can lead to erratic or reckless operation of the water vessel, and can lead to an arrest for boating under the influence (BUI) as well as injury. An experienced Palm Beach Gardens BUI lawyer can investigate all possible defenses and negotiate with the prosecution to get the charges reduced or dropped.

Penalties for Boating Under the Influence in Florida

Under Florida Statutes section 327.25, you can be found guilty of BUI if (1) you are operating a water vessel, (2) under the influence of alcoholic beverages or certain chemical and controlled substances such that your normal faculties are impaired. If law enforcement officers suspect you of a BUI, you will be asked to submit to sobriety tests and a physical or chemical test, just as you would with a DUI. There is a presumption of guilt if you have a blood alcohol content of .08 or above.

If a prosecutor successfully proves these elements and you are convicted for the first time, the punishment is a $500-$1,000 fine and incarceration in jail for up to 6 months. You will also be required to stay on probation for up to a year, receive an evaluation and treatment at a substance abuse course, perform community service, and have your vessel impounded for a short period. These are significant penalties that only get more severe for repeat offenses. 



A second BUI conviction can lead to a sentence that includes: a $1,000-2,000 fine, up to 9 months incarceration in jail that includes mandatory imprisonment if your prior BUI is within 5 years of the previous conviction, and impoundment of either the vessel operated under the influence or another vehicle registered under your name for a period of 30 days.

If you receive a third conviction within 10 years of your second conviction, you will be charged with felony BUI, a third degree felony. The sentence for this conviction includes imprisonment for no less than 30 days and up to 5 years. The maximum sentence is 12 months’ incarceration for someone who receives a third conviction that is not within 10 years of the last conviction.

A fourth violation is a third degree felony that is penalized with a fine of not less than $2,000 and incarceration of up to 5 years. If you hurt someone or kill someone while boating under the influence, the penalties are considerably more severe.

Contact a Palm Beach Gardens BUI Attorney

An experienced West Palm Beach boating under the influence defense attorney can look at the facts of your case to determine the best possible defense. If you retain me, I will use my 30 years of experience, including five years of prosecuting crimes, to develop a sound defense strategy to fight the BUI charges. My strategy may include challenging improperly obtained evidence, calling into question the credibility of witnesses, and challenging any procedural errors. Schedule a free initial consultation at my Palm Beach Gardens office, located near I-95 and PGA Boulevard or at my West Palm Beach office. Call me at 561-533-1221 or send me a message through my online form. Credit cards are accepted.