Florida law prohibits operating a vessel within the state while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The law defines "vessel" as all "watercraft, barge, and airboat, other than a seaplane on the water, used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water." A person can be convicted of boating under the influence (BUI) for operating a vessel while:
So, a BUI can be based on actual drug or alcohol impairment or BAC.
The penalties for a Florida BUI depend on a number of factors, including whether the operator:
Most first-offense BUIs are second-degree misdemeanors and carry from $500 to $1,000 in fines and a maximum of six months in jail. Judges are required to sentence first offenders to probation. The total period of probation and jail time can't exceed one year. And generally, mandatory conditions of probation include 50 hours of community service and ten days of impoundment or immobilization of the offender's vessel.
For first-offense BUIs that involve an accident, a high BAC, or a passenger under the age of 18, the penalties are:
Most second-offense BUIs are second-degree misdemeanors and carry from $1,000 to $2,000 in fines and a maximum of nine months in jail. If the second offense occurred within five years of a prior BUI or DUI conviction, there's a minimum ten-day jail sentence. As a mandatory condition of probation, the judge generally must order that the offender's vessel be impounded or immobilized for 30 days.
Second offenders who had a BAC of .15% or more or a passenger under the age of 18 generally face fines ranging from $2,000 to $4,000 and up to 12 months in jail.
Penalties for a third-offense BUI depend on whether the third conviction occurred within ten years of at least one of the prior BUI or DUI offenses.
If the third BUI was within 10 years of a prior, it will be a third-degree felony, which carries up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines. And the offender will spend a minimum of 30 days in jail.
A third BUI occurring more than 10 years after the most recent prior conviction is a misdemeanor and punishable by up to 12 months in jail and between $2000 and $5,000 in fines.
Generally, all third offenders face vessel impoundment or immobilization for 90 days. And typically, if a third offender had a BAC of .15% or more or a passenger under 18 years old, the minimum fine will be $4,000.
The consequences of a BUI are serious. If you've been arrested for or charged with boating under the influence, you should get in contact with a qualified attorney. An experienced BUI attorney should be able to tell you how the law applies to the facts of your case and whether there are any available defenses to your charges.