Frequently Asked Questions About Boating Under the Influence

FAQ about boating under the influenceAccording to the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol is the leading cause of fatal boat accidents. Each year, Florida has the most boating fatalities nationwide, one-third of which result from alcohol use. Boating under the influence (BUI) is a serious offense. In Florida, law enforcement agencies have increased their efforts to enforce BUI laws. If you have been involved in a boat accident related to alcohol use, you should consult with a skilled criminal defense attorney. Here are some frequently asked questions about boating under the influence. 

What Is the Difference Between a BUI and a DUI?

BUIs and DUIs share many commonalities. However, the inherent differences between driving a boat and a car have resulted in unique laws related to boat operation and alcohol use. 

One of the key differences between a BUI and a DUI is operation. For example, in the event that a driver is pulled over, the responding officer can easily tell who was driving the car. Occupants in a car can’t switch seats without an officer noticing. Conversely, when officers approach a boat, passengers can easily move around, making it difficult for the officer to discern who was driving the boat. 

In response, Florida legislators have defined key differences between operating a boat and a car. For cars, the person responsible for operating the vehicle is in the driver’s seat. For boats, the parties held accountable include the person behind the wheel and whoever is navigating the vessel. 

Another difference between BUIs and DUIs is administrative inspection. For example, when you’re driving a car, an officer cannot randomly pull you over to check your registration and then arrest you for a DUI. However, marine officers are allowed to stop boats for registration and ID checks without probable cause. If the operator is under the influence, the officer can arrest them for a BUI. 

Do Marine Officers Need Probable Cause to Board My Boat?

Marine police officers do not need probable cause to pull over your boat. In Florida, this is one of the main differences between DUIs and BUIs. If a police officer wants to pull over a motor vehicle for a potential DUI, they need to have probable cause of a crime. While most marine officers will ask permission to board your boat, they are allowed by law to come onto your boat to check your registration. 

What Is the Legal Alcohol Limit When Operating a Boat?

Florida’s legal limit for blood alcohol content when operating a boat is 0.08, the same as when driving a motor vehicle. Marine officers use different field tests to determine sobriety than police officers testing motor drivers for intoxicated operation. For example, when pulling over a driver suspected to be intoxicated, a police officer might ask them to walk in a straight line. However, this test is not effective on a boat. Instead, marine officers ask boat operators to perform seated exercises that test hand–eye coordination.  

What are the penalties for a BUI in Florida? 

When you are convicted of a BUI, the resulting penalties are circumstantial. If your blood alcohol content (BAC) was above .15 or there were serious injuries involved, penalties can be severe. In Florida, common penalties for your first BUI include: 

  • A fine between $500 and $1,000 
  • Up to six months in jail
  • Mandatory probation up to one year
  • Mandatory attendance at an alcohol education/substance abuse class
  • Up to 50 hours of mandatory community service
  • Boat impounded for 10 days

Common penalties for your second offense include: 

  • A fine between $1,000 and $2,000 
  • Up to nine months in jail 
  • Mandatory probation up to one year
  • Mandatory attendance at an alcohol education/substance abuse class
  • Boat impounded for 30 days

Get Help from a Trial-Tested BUI Defense Lawyer

If you’ve been involved in a boat accident related to alcohol use, it is imperative to consult with a skilled BUI defense lawyer. At The Umansky Law Firm, our attorneys have a proven track record of successfully representing BUI cases in Florida. As former prosecutors, we provide a unique advantage that most law firms can’t offer. With over 100 years of combined experience in criminal law, our team has the expertise to best represent your case. To schedule a free consultation, call (407)-228-3838 or complete an online contact form.