It is common to hear stories about people convicted of driving vehicles while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Although less common, people may also be convicted of driving boats while similarly impaired. In Florida, there are many instances where people head out on the water to enjoy a day with friends, and it is common to have a drink while doing so. While it is not forbidden to enjoy a drink on the water, Florida law prohibits operating any vessel while under the influence of alcoholic beverages or any controlled substances to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired. Normal faculties include the ability to see, hear, walk, talk, judge distances, make judgements, act in emergencies, and, in general, perform the many mental and physical acts of daily life.
Who do You Get a BUI?
Any person who operates a vessel on Florida waters is deemed to have consented to chemical or physical testing or his blood, breath, or urine. The refusal to submit to any of these tests upon request of a law enforcement officer is admissible into evidence in a criminal proceeding and punishable by a $500 civil fine.
Blood-alcohol level of .08 or higher: Immediate proof of impairment
Blood-alcohol level between .05 and .08: Does not immediately give rise to proof of impairment but may be considered along with other evidence
Blood-alcohol level of .05 or less: Raises a presumption that the operator was not impaired
Penalties for BUI in Florida
Florida’s BUI laws are among the toughest in the nation. A DUI is considered a prior offense of a BUI and vice versa. For example, you may be convicted of a fourth-offense BUI (a felony) even if this was your first boating arrest if you have three prior DUI convictions.
First Time Offenders: Between $250 and $500 in fines and up to six months in jail
Second Offense: Between $500 and $1,000 in fines and up to twelve months in jail
Third Offense (within ten years): Up to $5,000 in fines and up to five years in prison
Third Offense (outside ten years): A fine not less than $2,000 and up to twelve months in jail
Fourth Offense: A fine not less than $2,000 and up to five years in prison. A judge can change these penalties to the maximum if deemed necessary.
BUIs Involving Accidents, Injuries, or Death
A BUI related accident that results in property damage is a first-degree misdemeanor and could result in a one-year jail sentence and a $1,000 fine. A BUI involving bodily injury is a third-degree felony and could result in jail time of up to five years and a $5,000 fine. A BUI that results in death of another person is considered BUI manslaughter. This is a second-degree felony that could result in up to 15 years of jail time and a fine of up to $10,000. If a person suspected of a BUI flees the scene instead of helping injured victims, they could face a first-degree felony. This could result in up to thirty years of jail time and a fine of up to $10,000.
Have you been charged with BUI? Contact a BUI Defense Lawyer.
Just like other traffic-related offenses, there are many times in which individuals are wrongfully accused of operating a boat while impaired. With the right assistance, many people facing BUI charges can avoid these harsh penalties. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm are prepared to help you or a loved one through this process. Call today at (850) 681-7777 or send an online message for a free consultation.
Attorney Don Pumphrey, Jr. is a former prosecutor, former law enforcement officer, and a successful and experienced criminal defense attorney. Don has achieved over 100 not guilty verdicts at trial and over 2,000 dismissals.