Can I be subjected to a field sobriety test if the police suspect that I am boating under the influence?
Typically, when investigating boating under the influence (BUI) in Florida, law enforcement officers will board a vessel or move the suspect to dry land to conduct sobriety tests. Officers conducting sobriety tests for alcohol offenses have pre-approved standardized tests available to them to use on land and on the water, meaning that if you are ever suspected of boating under the influence, an officer could ask you to undergo a sobriety test on your own boat. West Palm Beach law enforcement officers are well-trained on how to conduct these types of tests and will do what they can to have you submit to them prior to arresting you for BUI.
Can I lose my boating license or permit from a BUI conviction?
The state of Florida does not issue licenses nor permits for operating boats; rather, anyone born on or after January 1, 1988, must complete an approved boating safety course and obtain a Boating Safety Education ID card issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). A person operating a boat who is convicted of BUI may have his or her boating privilege suspended. To win that privilege back he or she must complete certain educational requirements and turn those documentations into the proper authorities so that, upon a subsequent boating stop, the officer conducting the stop knows that he or she may legally operate that boat.
Can law enforcement pull me over in my boat just like in a DUI case?
Law enforcement on the water has much more authority to stop your vessel than law enforcement does on the roads. On the roads, police can stop you only when they have a reasonable suspicion that you committed a traffic offense or are otherwise doing something unlawful. In the sea, law enforcement officers may stop vessels to conduct safety inspections. Police officers don’t need any type of evidence that you’ve done something wrong or reasonable suspicion that you have. You can be stopped for much less of a violation on water than on land.
Do I have to go to jail for a BUI conviction or do I only have to pay a fine?
Jail time is a very realistic possibility after a BUI conviction, particularly for those who are not first offenders. In Florida, you may face hefty fines for committing an alcohol offense, and boating under the influence is no different. Additional fines are possible for those who refuse to submit to chemical BAC testing. Chemical tests are tests that police officers conduct to acquire samples of your physical state at the time of the BUI stop. Just like in a DUI stop, you may be subjected to a breath, blood, or urine test if you are suspected of boating under the influence. If you refuse to submit to any of these tests, you may face monetary fines for preventing the officer from collecting the samples. The prosecution may use the evidence of you refusing these tests as evidence against you in a court of law.
Even if I am convicted for boating under the influence, can I just perform community service?
Any individual convicted of boating under the influence in the state of Florida may be required to complete a period of probation, pay monetary fines, complete different educational courses such as DUI school or BUI school, boating safety classes, community service hours, and the suspension of their privilege to operate the vessel. Individuals convicted of boating under the influence cannot just perform community service hours in lieu of all those other punishments.
How do I fight a BUI charge?
To fight a BUI charge, you must first try to gather every piece of evidence that you can regarding the BUI stop. Your criminal defense lawyer must find out if law enforcement used video cameras to capture the stop, both on the water and dry land. There must be an inspection of the breath testing device that they used to gauge your BAC. Your attorney must investigate whether or not the breathalyzer was working properly when it was used to test your BAC, that it was properly calibrated, and that it was an approved device. An inquisitive DUI lawyer may also question law enforcement regarding their observations. Completing a thorough investigation is the most crucial aspect of a proper defense for a boating under the influence charge.
How do law enforcement officers conduct a boating under the influence investigation?
Investigations for BUI are practically DUI investigations that take place on the water. As with driving under the influence, a boater under the influence may display several signs that let law enforcement know that he or she may be operating the boat while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. When a police officer pulls you over as a suspect in a BUI case, he or she will look for signals that you are impaired. He or she will evaluate your balance, speech patterns, and more before deciding to have you undergo a breathalyzer test. The officer’s goal is to determine the extent to which your normal faculties are impaired.
A law enforcement officer who observes behavior that is in line with a person boating under the influence will likely conduct a breath test and place you under arrest for BUI.
How does the prosecutor prove I am guilty of BUI?
In a BUI case, the prosecutor usually receives testimony from the officers who conducted your BUI investigation. The officers provide information about your condition while operating the boat and how you behaved once they made contact with you. If the officers testify that you operated the boat in a reckless manner, then that evidence may be used against you in court. If the officers’ testimony states that you showed the typical signs of a person who had consumed too much alcohol, including bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, the smell of alcohol on your person, poor balance, poor dexterity, lack of proper judgment, and more, this also may be used against you to push for a BUI conviction.
Is it illegal to drink alcohol while operating a boat in Florida?
In Florida, it is not illegal for the operator of a boat to drink an alcoholic beverage; however, it is illegal for the operator to drive the boat while drunk. If you have had so much to drink that it impairs your normal faculties, you may not legally operate a boat.
What are the penalties for multiple offenses of boating under the influence?
Individuals facing their second or greater BUI charge face harsher punishments than those facing their first BUI charge. If you are on your second or subsequent BUI, you will likely face a longer period of incarceration, steeper fines, and may be subjected to more schooling upon a conviction. Your previous BUI charges will come into play when determining your guilt and an appropriate sentence. You also jeopardize your boating privilege once more. At this time, working with an experienced and aggressive BUI lawyer in West Palm Beach is even more critical to your case.
What are the penalties for a first-time charge of boating under the influence?
In Florida, an individual convicted of boating under the influence for the first time may be sentenced to the following under Statute 327.35:
- paying a fine of not less than $500 or more than $1,000
- imprisonment for not more than 6 months
Additional penalties may include:
- Completing DUI or BUI school
- Completing community service hours
- Attending the “victim impact panel”
- Undergoing counseling
Florida law typically requires the above penalties for all individuals convicted of BUI.