Last Updated: February 8th, 2023 at 3:15 pm
Read Time: 6 Minutes
Many people don’t realize that it’s possible to get a DUI on a boat. DUI’s, or Driving Under the Influence, charges are most commonly associated with vehicles on the road. However, as per Florida boating laws, it is illegal to operate a boat while intoxicated. A DUI on a boat is a serious offense that can be costly, with fines reaching thousands of dollars. It may land you in jail, and it can even result in a felony charge on your record.
If you are arrested for a BUI (Boating Under the Influence), you must hire a Florida DUI Defense Attorney today. Partner Matt Shafran, head of the Criminal Defense Division at Weinstein Legal, has vast experience fighting cases involving boating DUI charges. Do not face legal proceedings alone or with a court-appointed attorney. You need legal representation accustomed to Florida boating laws, DUI cases, and the local judicial system. Every day you wait is a day that could be spent forming your defense and protecting your freedom.
What Is a BUI (Boating Under the Influence) Charge?
A BUI is the same as DUI, but instead of operating a motor vehicle, the offense takes place while operating a boat. According to the United States Coast Guard and the Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety, it is the leading cause of death in boating accidents. For this reason, judges and juries take charges relating to a DUI on a boat exceptionally seriously.
The Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) regulations are the same as with motor vehicle DUIs. Anyone found to be operating a watercraft with a BAC of more than 0.08% will be arrested. If you are under the age of 21, it is illegal to operate a watercraft with a BAC of more than 0.02%.
However, more than your BAC plays into whether or not you may be arrested for a DUI on a boat. Under Florida boating laws, you may be arrested if an officer deems you to be impaired, regardless of your blood alcohol content. As the act of being impaired is highly subjective, you must hire a defense attorney to fight on your behalf. Without concrete evidence that you were operating a boat under the influence, you have a chance of beating your case.
What Are the Consequences of Getting a DUI on a Boat?
The potential consequences of a BUI can be severe. Many factors are taken into consideration, but in the end, if you are convicted, you will lose individual freedoms. You face probation and jail time, community service hours, and fines that can amount to thousands of dollars.
More importantly, the charge will appear on your public record. Potential employers and landlords will be able to see the charge and conviction, and you may be excluded from obtaining specific job opportunities.
Factors that contribute to your penalties include whether a minor was on the boat, your BAC, whether you have prior convictions, if bodily harm occurred to any persons, and if there was property damage resulting from an accident.
If you are found guilty of causing bodily harm to another, or damaging property, not only will you be responsible for the legal fees and fines, but you may also be held accountable for compensating the victims and repairing the property.
Additionally, if you are arrested on a BUI you face the possibility of more fines if your watercraft is not compliant with all aspects of Florida boating laws. These laws include having a flotation device available for each person on board, having a functional fire extinguisher, up-to-date registration, flares, and more. Should you be arrested for a DUI on a boat and be in violation of any other regulations, you may be fined for them separately. The costs can quickly add up.
The best way to defend yourself against these penalties is to hire an experienced BUI attorney.
Florida Boating Laws and Alcohol
Florida is famous for its beautiful beaches, the Intracoastal Waterway, and other scenic waterways. It’s the perfect environment, nearly year-round, to head out on the water. Many people go out on boats with family on the weekends, with friends as a celebration, or to relax and soak up the sun. Sometimes, there is alcohol involved.
Under Florida state law, it is not illegal to have alcohol on a boat. You may have alcohol on your watercraft, and people may drink while out on the water. However, once you are determined to be the boat operator, it becomes illegal for you to be impaired.
It is also important to note that operating any watercraft while impaired is illegal as per Florida boating laws. These include kayaks, jet skis, canoes, sailboards, and more.
What Does the “Boat Operator” Mean?
In the state of Florida, it is illegal for a minor under the age of 14 to operate a boat. If you are the registered boat owner and primary operator, found to be under the influence while a person younger than that age is driving, you may face a BUI charge. Not only will you be charged with a BUI, but you may face additional charges, as it is illegal to have a minor under the age of 14 operate a boat.
In most cases, the owner of the boat is considered the operator; however, if you are behind the wheel, the term applies.
When Can an Officer Stop You on the Water?
Water officers are real police officers, and they have every right to stop you when you are on a watercraft. Additionally, the Coast Guard has the authority to stop you as well. They may stop, search, seize, and arrest any individuals on a watercraft who are found to violate Florida boating laws, and for a DUI on a boat. They may search you due to probable cause. However, you retain the same rights regarding illegal search and seizure that you have on the land.
An officer or member of the Coast Guard may stop you on the water for a variety of reasons. Violating speed limits, operating a vehicle erratically, not having a registration sticker displayed, or having a child in danger by not wearing the proper flotation device. All of these scenarios fall under probable cause for a stop, much like driving on the road.
As water officers are police officers, you must comply. If you attempt to flee, you may face further charges or fines. You cannot simply ignore a request to stop, and if you do, you may face steep consequences. Furthermore, the implied consent law applies to any individual operating a boat. What this means is that if you are on the water, you must submit to legal alcohol testing to determine whether or not you are under the influence.
If you refuse to submit to a BAC test, you violate the implied consent law and can face additional charges and fines.
Defenses for Receiving a DUI on a Boat
There are many defenses that an experienced attorney can help build when you are arrested for a DUI on a boat. For this reason, you must hire one as soon as possible. Possible defenses include a lack of probable cause, lack of evidence that you were intoxicated, and more. An experienced DUI defense attorney knows the ins and outs of Florida boating laws and will best help your case.
Do not wait to hire an attorney once you are arrested for a DUI on a boat. Due to the steep consequences associated with the charge, and the fact that it is a serious criminal matter, take action immediately.
Contact Weinstein Legal today to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Florida today for your free case evaluation.