Boating Under the Influence (BUI)
The state of Florida leads the nation in annual boating fatalities. The crime of boating under the influence is weighed heavily by law enforcement and the State. DUI and BUI charges in Florida carry the same basic penalties, but the circumstances leading up to a BUI differ greatly from those that lead to a DUI arrest. The legal limit of 0.08% blood alcohol concentration does not change because a different vehicle is used. If you have failed a breath test for BUI in Palm Beach you need the services of a competent BUI attorney right away.
Palm Beach County has the fourth highest boating accident rate. In 2014, the county had 45 boating accidents out of a total of 685 in the entire state of Florida. These 45 accidents caused 4 fatalities. It is estimated that alcohol plays a role in 12% to up to one third of all boating accidents that result in a fatality. For this reason, pursuing BUI is a top priority for law enforcement. Boating under the influence is defined in Florida Statute §327.35. A key difference in BUI charges is that no probable cause is needed to stop and inspect a boat to ensure that it complies with regulations. Probable cause for arrest of a person suspected of impairment is developed once the officer boards the vessel.
The following elements must be satisfied in trial court to prove a BUI has occurred:
- The operator of the boat in Florida must have been under the influence of alcoholic beverages or a chemical substance, and as a result have had his or her “normal faculties” impaired
- The operator of the boat has a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher
- The operator of the boat has a breath-alcohol level of 0.08% or higher
As with alcohol, BUI is committed when the operator of the boat reaches or exceeds the legal limit of 0.08%, or when the operator’s “normal faculties” are impaired. There are strict penalties for BUI in Florida, including:
- Jail time
- Impoundment and/ or forfeiture of the vessel
- Community service requirements
A first-time BUI conviction is classified as a misdemeanor crime, and can lead to a fine of $500.00 to up to $1,000.00 and a jail sentence of up to 6 months or up to 12 months of probation. In addition, one could face 50 hours of community service, for which there is no “buy-out” option.
A second-time BUI conviction can incur penalties of fines ranging from $1,000.00 to $2,000.00 and a jail sentence of up to 9 months or 12 months of probation, along with community service.
A third-time BUI conviction, or the first BUI after a period of 10 years, can incur fines of $2,000.00, and a jail sentence of 12 months or twelve months of probation.
A third-time BUI within 10 years of a prior is a 3rd degree felony in Florida. This means that a defendant could face a sentence of up to 5 years in a Florida state prison or 5 years of probation.
Special enhancements apply to BUI for various circumstances, such as if the BAC was at 0.15% or above, or a passenger under the age of 18 was present. A defendant can be charged with BUI on any vessel, whether he or she is operating a yacht or a rowboat or canoe. BUI charges in Palm Beach County are common, with over 36,500 registered boats. Florida holds the most registered boats in the country, with a total of nearly a million boats! A BUI is not uncommon in South Florida. To make sure you have the best possible chance of your charges being reduced or dropped, consult with Mr. Brian Gabriel of The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel by calling 561-622-5575.