Tourists and locals alike enjoy all kinds of water-based recreational activities in the sunshine state. Cruising the turquoise waters, fishing, jet skiing, and other boating activities often go together with the consumption of alcoholic beverages. However, boating under the influence in Florida can have serious consequences for the person driving the boat. Boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs (BUI) is a criminal offense in the state and can come with harsh punishments.
If you were arrested for BUI in Florida, you should seek legal advice and protection to learn more about your legal rights. It is likely that Florida Fish and Wildlife was the arresting agency. They are used to dealing with animals and fish- not arresting people, so you will have an advantage once you get a lawyer. Our criminal defense attorneys have a track record of handling BUI cases successfully and can help you too. Call St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney Sean K. McQuaid now to schedule a free consultation with our criminal defense team: (727) 381-2300.
Florida Boating Under the Influence Statistics
Florida is a boater’s paradise and an increasing number of individuals enjoy water-based recreational activities on the state’s rivers, oceans, and lakes. According to Statista, Florida is number one when it comes to motorboat registrations in the United States with a staggering 935,742 vessels registered in 2019.
However, the state does not only boast the highest number of registered boats. Florida also holds the sad record of the highest number of accidents and casualties caused by BUI in the country. According to the United States Coast Guard (USCG), alcohol played a role in 40 boating accidents and 18 fatalities in the state in 2019.
Boating Under the Influence and Florida State Law
Just like driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, operating a vessel while intoxicated or impaired is a criminal offense under Florida State law. According to Florida Statute §327.35, a person is guilty of boating under the influence (BUI) if they are operating a vessel:
- Under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- With a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or moreOR
- With a breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or more
It is important to note that even prescription medication can fall under BUI laws if they impair a person’s normal faculties.
The Florida legislature takes BUI seriously and punishment can include steep fines as well as imprisonment. In general, those convicted of boating under the influence in Florida can expect the following types of punishment:
- A fine of up to $1000 and imprisonment for up to six months for a first conviction
- A fine of up to $2000 and imprisonment for up to nine months for a second conviction
- A fine of up to $5000 and imprisonment for up to 12 months for a third conviction
The actual penalties issued for BUI in Florida will depend on many factors including whether the offender had an excessive blood alcohol level at the time of arrest, whether they were under 18 years of age, and whether the offender caused an accident with injuries, deaths, or property damage.
Depending on the circumstances, BUI can count as a misdemeanor or felony. If an individual caused the death of another due to BUI, they could face a conviction for a first-degree felony with a potential punishment of up to 30 years in prison.
If you have been arrested for BUI in Florida, consider contacting St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney Sean K. McQuaid for help and to ensure your legal rights remain protected. We could help to minimize any penalties and mitigate the impact of a BUI conviction on your future life.
Can a Police Officer Stop Me for no Reason?
Generally, a police officer must have a reason for stopping and testing boat operators for BUI. Reasons for law enforcement officers to stop a boater can include:
- Exhibiting unsafe boating behavior
- Violating a law or regulation
- Excessive speeding
However, officers can also stop boaters for inspections, including for:
- Checking your registration
- Checking you have the required safety equipment such as life jackets
- Making sure you are adhering to fishing regulations
During these checks, a police officer has the right to perform sobriety exercises or ask the boat operator to submit to breath and urine testing. This could be a real problem if you have been drinking.
Steps To Take After A BUI Arrest
Your number one priority after getting arrested for boating under the influence in Florida should be finding out about your legal rights and protecting yourself. What you do and say when interacting with police can be crucial for your case. First of all, those who have been charged with BUI have the legal right to remain silent. Remaining silent can be crucially important as whatever you say can and most likely will be used against you in court. While it is your right to remain silent when questioned, make sure to remain polite, calm, and towards the police officers.
Your next step should be to consider seeking legal advice from an experienced criminal defense attorney who handles BUI cases. An experienced attorney will know how to handle your case, can immediately protect your legal rights, and start working on the best possible outcome for your case. The sooner you consult with an attorney, the sooner they can start working on a defense strategy in order to try and minimize any potential punishments.
St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney Sean K. McQuaid Can Defend Your Rights
A BUI charge can impact your career and private life negatively for years to come. A conviction can result in a permanent criminal record, jail time, probation, fines, and other potential punishment. Individuals need to be aware that a previous conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) and then getting arrested for a BUI, or vice versa, will count as a second offense and result in more severe punishment.
How Our Legal Team Can Help You
Our experienced criminal defense attorneys can work tirelessly to try and get your BUI charge reduced or dismissed. Ways in which we can help include but are not limited to:
- Offering legal guidance and counsel
- Handling all the paperwork for your case
- Building a comprehensive defense strategy
- Representing your case strongly in court
We understand that getting charged with a BUI can feel upsetting and overwhelming. However, we can be by your side and handle all aspects of your case. The seasoned BUI defense lawyers in our firm know how to fight for your rights and can help you minimize any negative consequences of a BUI charge. Get help now and contact St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney Sean K. McQuaid for a free case review: (727) 381-2300.