Boating while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is also illegal in Florida. Those picked up for impaired boating face many of the same consequences as those arrested for DUI. Florida routinely leads the nation in boating-related deaths, so the state’s vigilance is warranted.
To pull together the best defense possible, you should schedule a consultation with an attorney. Lockett Law has helped many people accused of boating under the influence, and we are pleased to offer our services to you. Contact us today to speak with a St. Augustine BUI attorney.
What is Boating Under the Influence (BUI)?
You can find the relevant law at Fla. Stat. §327.35(1). A person is guilty of BUI if they are operating a vessel in the state and they are under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other controlled substances such that they are impaired. They have also committed a BUI if they take a chemical test and their blood alcohol level is 0.08 or higher.
As you can see, you do not have to have a certain score on a breathalyzer. Instead, it is enough if you are impaired such that you can’t operate the vessel like you normally could.
What Are the Penalties?
The statute also states the penalties for a conviction:
- Imprisonment, for up to 6 months for a first conviction (or up to 9 months for a second conviction)
- Fine between $500 and $1,000 for a first conviction (and between $1000 and $2000 for a second conviction)
Subsequent convictions for BUI will be dealt with more harshly. For example, a third conviction within 10 years of a second conviction is treated as a third-degree felony. A person convicted of third-degree felony can spend up to 5 years in prison.
Fines and punishments can also increase for certain aggravating factors, such as having a very high BAL of 0.15 or higher. Meet with a St. Augustine BUI attorney to review your case.
What Are the Penalties for Injuring Someone?
With luck, no one will be hurt while you are boating under the influence. However, if someone is hurt—whether a passenger on your boat or on another boat—then you can be prosecuted for serious bodily injury to another, which is a third-degree felony under Florida law.
If someone dies, then you could be charged with BUI manslaughter, an even more serious charge:
- Generally, this is a second-degree felony, which carries as punishment up to 15 years in prison.
- However, if you knew of the accident and failed to render aid or assistance, then you can be charged with a first-degree felony. First-degree felonies carry up to 30 years in prison.
Injuring someone while intoxicated or high is a very serious offense. Prosecutors are unlikely to give you a good plea deal, even if you have a clean criminal record. Hiring the right attorney is critical so that you carefully defend against these charges.
How Do You Defend Against BUI Charges?
Every case is unique. Ideally, a defendant does not make any incriminating statements to the police or Coast Guard when picked up. For example, admitting to drinking while on the boat is very difficult to overcome, since the prosecutor can introduce these statements against you at trial.
However, we will look at the facts as they present themselves. It is not BUI to operate a boat clumsily or to make some mistake that causes a crash. Some incriminating evidence can be explained away. For example, beer cans might belong to guests on the boat who were drinking. Likewise, drug paraphernalia could belong to other people on the boat or to the boat’s owner (if that is not you).
We can also challenge the legality of the stop. The authorities might not have had a valid reason to question you, in which case any evidence they find while on your boat could be suppressed. When the prosecutor can’t get into evidence proof that you were impaired, they might dismiss the charges.
It is vital to meet with an attorney as soon as possible. The best defenses flow naturally from the facts of the case, and an attorney needs time to review everything that is known and possibly investigate.
Contact Our Boating DUI Lawyers in St. Augustine, FL Today
Boating under the Influence is a serious criminal charge that warrants a forceful response. At Lockett Law, our team has defended many people accused of this crime, and we will fight aggressively for the most favorable resolution possible.
Please contact us today. We offer free consultations.