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% BAC 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.
How is BUI Different from DUI?
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
Possible Penalties for a BUI in Florida
A first-time BUI conviction is classified as a misdemeanor offense. It can lead to:
- a fine of $500.00 to up to $1,000.00
- a jail sentence of up to 6 months or up to 12 months of probation
In addition, one could be required to complete 50 hours of community service, for which there is no “buy-out” option.
A second 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, and community service.
A third 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 BUI within 10 years of a prior is a third-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.
Available BUI Defenses
When defending a case of BUI, your defense lawyer will gather all possible evidence that can discredit the prosecution’s case against you. The goal is to have your case thrown out so you can avoid a conviction and associated penalties. Your attorney may be able to challenge the arresting officer’s actions when he investigated you for BUI.
- Challenging the officer’s cause for conducting a BUI investigation
- Challenging the administration and results of sobriety tests, including field sobriety and breath tests
One of the most effective challenges to a BUI charge is being able to show that the arresting officer did not follow protocol when issuing a field sobriety and/or breath test. An attorney who can cast doubt on these tests and their results has a greater chance of gaining a dismissal of the case. These defense strategies require competence and experience to work, which is why it’s crucial to hire a reputable BUI defense lawyer.
Fight Your BUI Charge in West Palm Beach
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, discuss your charge with a qualified defense lawyer. Attorney Brian Gabriel has more than 25 years of experience defending alcohol charges throughout Palm Beach County and surrounding areas. As a National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Lawyer, you can trust him to construct an effective defense. For a free consultation, call 561-622-5575 or complete our contact form.