Boating is a popular recreational activity in the beautiful state of Florida, with its abundant waterways and stunning coastlines. While enjoying the freedom of the open waters, it is essential to prioritize safety and responsible behavior.
Florida boating under the influence (BUI) laws are as strict as those for driving a vehicle while impaired. It prohibits anyone from boating under the influence. That is, it is illegal to operate any vessel or to manipulate any water skis, sailboard, or similar device while intoxicated due to alcohol or any combination of alcohol, a controlled substance, or drugs.
Florida statute states that a person is considered to be “under the influence” if he or she has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher or is under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs to a degree that impairs his or her normal abilities.
Consequences of Boating Under The Influence
Driving a boat under the influence is taken very seriously in Florida, and the consequences of being caught operating a boat while intoxicated can be severe. A BUI can become a permanent criminal record.
The consequences for BUI typically include:
- Fines: Depending on the severity of the offense and whether it is a repeat offense, boating under the influence fines can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars.
- Imprisonment: Offenders may face jail time ranging from a few days to six months for a first conviction.
- Probation: The court may impose probation, requiring the offender to comply with specific conditions, such as regular alcohol or drug testing and attendance of substance abuse programs.
- Boating License Suspension: A person convicted of boating under the influence may have their boating privileges suspended for a certain period.
- Boating Safety Education: Completing a boating safety education course may be mandatory as part of the penalties.
Penalties for Boating Under The Influence in Florida
The state of Florida has implemented strict penalties to deter individuals from operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These penalties are in place to ensure the safety of everyone on the water and to prevent reckless behavior.
Boating Under The Influence penalties can vary depending on various factors, including the offender’s blood alcohol level and whether it is a first offense or not.
Subsequent BUI convictions or aggravating factors result in harsher penalties. Penalties include longer jail sentences, higher fines, and license suspensions. BUI causing harm or property damage may lead to more charges.
The varying degrees of BUIs in Florida along with their penalties include the following:
- First BUI Offense – A person convicted of BUI for the first time in Florida faces a misdemeanor that results in jail time of up to six (6) months and a fine of up to $1,000.
- Second BUI Offense – A person convicted of BUI for the second time in Florida faces a misdemeanor that results in jail time of up to nine (9) months and a fine of up to $2,000.
- Third BUI Offense Within Ten Years – A person convicted of BUI for the third time in Florida within ten years faces a third-degree felony that results in jail time of up to five (5) years and a fine of up to $5,000.
- Third BUI Offense More Than Ten Years After Prior Offense – A person convicted of BUI for the third time in Florida more than ten years after a prior BUI conviction faces a misdemeanor that results in jail time of up to one (1) year and a fine between $2,000 and $5,000.
All individuals convicted of BUI in Florida whether the BUI is a first, second, third, or subsequent offense will be on probation for up to one year for each offense. The terms of probation include monthly reporting, completion of community service, and completion of drug and alcohol counseling.
Is Boating Under The Influence a Felony in Florida?
BUI is generally considered a misdemeanor offense in Florida. However, there are circumstances where the charge can be elevated to a felony. For example, if an individual is convicted of BUI for the third time within ten years, it can be charged as a third-degree felony, resulting in severe consequences, including longer prison sentences and higher fines.
Moreover, if a BUI incident causes serious bodily injury or death to another person, the responsible party may face felony charges, such as boating under the influence manslaughter or homicide.
Need Legal Help? Contact a Boating Under The Influence Attorney
Facing charges related to Boating Under the Influence can be a daunting experience. If you or someone you know have been arrested for Boating Under the Influence of drugs or alcohol in Florida, contact an experienced tampa criminal attorney at Anderson & Ackerman Law Group.
They will thoroughly assess the details of the case, explore potential defenses, and work tirelessly to protect your rights. They will guide you through the legal process, explain the potential consequences, and help you make informed decisions.
To ensure the safety of everyone on the water and to enjoy the beauty of Florida’s waterways responsibly, it is essential to avoid operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Prioritize safety, obey the law, and respect the rights of others on the water.