What is Reckless Operation of a Vessel in Florida?

June 4, 2024 Criminal Defense

Reckless operation of a vessel in Florida is a serious crime that may endanger the lives and property of others. Florida Statutes 327.33 describes the reckless operation of a vessel as involving “Wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property at a speed or in a manner as to endanger, or likely to endanger, life or limb, or damage the property of, or injure any person.”

The major components of a reckless operation charge include:

  • Intentional or Willful Disregard: The vessel operator must have intentionally or willfully disregarded the safety of others. They knew that their actions could cause injury to people or property, or they acted so carelessly that they foreseeably created such a risk.
  • Risk: The potential to injure people or property. This exists predominantly in situations in which the driver is weaving through congested traffic, was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or was ignoring boating traffic laws.

Here are a few examples of what may qualify as reckless operation: 

  • Operating the vessel at an unsafe speed
  • Weaving through congested traffic
  • Jumping the wake of another vessel too closely
  • Use of alcohol or drugs on board
  • Failing to keep a lookout for other vessels
  • Non-compliance with navigation guidelines, such as denial of proper of way

The key component differentiating reckless operation from careless operation is a lack of intent. Careless operation entails a failure to use due care, but not always a disregard for safety. Reckless operation, however, implies a conscious choice to behave in a way that might put others at risk.

Consequences of Reckless Operation

Reckless operation of a vessel is a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida. Penalties include:

  • Up to a year in jail
  • Fines
  • Probation
  • Community service
  • A mandatory boater safety course 
  • Potential suspension or revocation of boating license

Additional consequences of reckless operation of a vessel can include:

  • Boating Under the Influence (BUI) Charges: Operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be a separate offense. In some cases, BUI can also be considered reckless operation, which can result in first-degree misdemeanor charges.
  • Civil Liability: Reckless operation of a vessel can also result in civil liability if it causes injuries or property damage. The injured party may file a lawsuit against the reckless operator to recover damages.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Being arrested in Florida can be extremely stressful. Being charged and “formally charged” by information in Tallahassee or Leon County, Wakulla County, Jefferson County, Gadsden County , Quincy, Crawfordville, Florida State University, Tallahassee Community College, or Florida A&M University can be life changing. Given the possibility of a lengthy jail or prison sentence and hefty financial penalties, it is important to contact an aggressive, trusted and experienced Tallahassee criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Don Pumphrey, Jr. and the attorneys at Pumphrey Law have decades of experience fighting on behalf of clients and winning. Call Pumphrey Law now at (850) 681-7777 to learn more about what we can do for you. Our lawyers will be happy to provide you with a free consultation.

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