In 2014, Florida lead the nation in boating accidents and fatalities with 581 boating accidents that caused over $7 million in damages and lead to 70 deaths. Statistics reveal that alcohol is a top contributing factor in most boating accidents, and states are passing laws to crack down on drunken boating. If you own a boat in Florida, there are five key differences between a boating under the influence charges and driving under the influence charges that you need to know about.
Florida BUI Law
A Florida BUI is treated very seriously by the courts, partially because Florida leads in boating accidents and fatalities. Under Florida Statute Section 327.35(1), Florida observes the 0.08% BAC limit when prosecuting a BUI, which is the same for a DUI. Although the legal limit is unchanged, there are several key differences between a BUI charge and a DUI charge in Florida, and dozens of nuances an experienced BUI attorney fully comprehends.
Florida Requirements for Probable Cause
In Florida, legal authorities do not need probable cause to board your vessel, although they do usually ask for permission to do so. Typically, police stop and board a vessel to check registration, identification, and to ensure that you are abiding by all the safety and pollution regulations. This is called an administrative inspection. If you display signs of driving a boat under the influence, you may be asked to submit to special sobriety tests.
Boater Sobriety Tests
In West Palm Beach, you may encounter multiple legal authorities: PBSO, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation, and the US Coast Guard. Any of these entities may ask you to submit to specialized field sobriety tests to determine probable cause to then ask you for a breath sample. Since you are on the water in a rocking boat, officers do not ask you to walk in a straight line but rather focus on hand-eye coordination and the horizontal gaze. These exercises are part of the “seated sobriety test” which can be performed sitting down.
What are the Penalties for Refusing to Take a Sobriety Test?
If you refuse to a breath, blood, or urine test after you are arrested for a DUI, you face license suspension for one year. Refusing a second or third time elicits a suspension for 18 months and a first degree misdemeanor DUI charge. Refusing these tests after a first time BUI offense can lead to a $500 fine instead of a license suspension, since there is no boating license to suspend.
If you refuse a second or third time after being charged for boating under the influence, you will also receive first degree misdemeanor charges.
Florida Penalties when Charged with BUI
If you have been charged with a first time DUI offense in Florida, the court may order fifty hours of community service as part of your probation. If the court sees fit, the court may give you an alternative if it finds that your residence or your employment situation would create an undue hardship to complete the community service. This alternative is a buy-out option for which you pay $10 for each hour of community service you cannot complete.
On the other hand, the court is required to sentence a first time BUI offender to fifty hours of community service (in addition to other possible penalties), but there is no buy-out option.
If you are facing BUI charges in West Palm Beach, Florida, you can expect your case to be firmly prosecuted. Do not make your day in court unprepared. Collaborate with an experienced BUI and DUI attorney in Palm Beach County for a chance at the best possible outcome. With over 30 years of experience defending DUI and BUI, attorney Brian Gabriel seeks to have your charges dropped or reduced. Call 561-622-5575 for a free legal consultation.