Driving under the influence (DUI) is an extremely common criminal offense affecting states all across the country. Many states outside Florida, however, do not even consider the offense of boating under the influence (BUI), a virtually identical offense as driving under the influence, only substituting a boat or other watercraft for an automobile. It is essential for everyone living in Florida and those visiting to understand the offense of boating under the influence and what to do if charged with the offense.
Just as with driving under the influence, it is illegal to operate a boat or other watercraft while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Again, the legal limit is a .08 blood alcohol content level (BAC). Note that under the statute, a person can be convicted of boating under the influence similarly if they are under the influence of alcohol or other chemical substances to the extent that the driver's normal faculties are impaired.
Those driving boats and other watercrafts can be “pulled over” by local police officers, members of the U.S. Coast Guard, members of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, or other law enforcement officers. Just as police officers cruise the roadways and set up roadblocks to check for people driving under the influence, these officers of the state patrol Florida waterways looking for those that may be driving a boat under the influence.
Boating under the influence is a serious crime under Florida law. Anyone convicted can face up to $1,000 in fines and up to 6 months in prison for a first conviction. Along with any jail sentence and/or fines, the driver convicted of boating under the influence will be placed on probation of up to one year and will be required to complete community service work for a minimum of 50 hours. As a condition of that probation, the boat that was operated during the BUI offense may be impounded according to the court. Penalties for a second conviction include up to $2,000 in fines and up to 9 months in prison. Anyone convicted of a third violation within 10 years would face a third-degree felony, meaning that person could be sentenced to prison for up to 5 years and pay up to $5,000 in fines.
In addition to the traditional penalties, those convicted of a BUI can be required to attend substance abuses courses as ordered by the court.
Being convicted of a BUI will also count against you as another DUI if you are later charged with a DUI. Remember that someone convicted of a second DUI faces much steeper penalties than someone facing his or her first conviction.
What to Do if Charged
If you or someone you know has been charged with boating under the influence, it is critical that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney that understands the BUI laws of Florida. The skilled team of West Palm Beach attorneys at Farkas & Crowley are well qualified to handle both DUI and BUI cases and can discuss the details of your case with you today. Contact the office of Farkas & Crowley immediately to protect against the serious consequences associated with a BUI.