[vc_empty_space height=”13vw”]Having a few drinks and then operating a boat or other watercraft is just as dangerous as driving drunk. But what does the law say about boating under the influence and what penalties can you face for the charge? Here’s everything you need to know for understanding Palm Beach County’s BUI laws.
Florida Statute 327.35 covers Boating Under the Influence (BUI) crimes. According to the Statute:
- (1) A person is guilty of the offense of boating under the influence and is subject to punishment as provided in subsection (2) if the person is operating a vessel within this state and:
- (a) The person is under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any chemical substance outlined in s. 877.111, or any substance controlled under chapter 893, when affected to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired;
- (b) The person has a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, or
- (c) The person has a breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.
An Increase in BUIs
There have been laws passed around the country to stop people from boating under the influence. The U.S. Coast Guard tracks statistics regarding boating accidents and, in short, a large percentage of all recreational boating fatalities involve the use of alcohol. It is all the more troublesome that watercraft folk generally lack operational expertise or the minimum level of competency that driver licensing seeks to ensure.
The circumstances of each BUI case, as well as the laws of the state in which it is charged, will determine whether the crime is a misdemeanor or felony, as well as what penalties are possible.
- Jail or Prison: Misdemeanor BUI charges can result in up to 90 days in jail, while felony charges can mean up to a year or, the accused kills someone, significantly longer.
- Fines: Fines for boating under the influence also differ among cases and states. Misdemeanor fines are usually in the $1,000 range whereas felony fines vary significantly and can exceed $25,000.
- Probation: Many BUIs result in probation. When a court imposes a probation sentence, it allows the convicted person to serve the penalty outside of jail or prison. However, someone on probation does not have the same freedoms that an average person does, and must comply with specific probation conditions for 12 months or longer.
- Suspended Boating Privileges: If you face BUI charges, your boating license will typically be suspended for between 30-90 days.
BUI is a Complex Legal Matter
BUIs are just as dangerous as DUIs, but they present much more complex legal issues. Boats, for one, do not have breaks like automobiles do. They are also much more susceptible to external conditions, such as the weather or the choppiness of the water. Also, there is no defined roadway for boats, in the same way, that there are for cars. All of these issues make BUIs more complicated to prosecute – particularly as a felony. For this reason, you need to ensure you have the best possible legal representation if you find yourself charged with a BUI.
Chad Piotrowski has an extensive background in aggressively defending his clients from charges ranging from marijuana possession to armed drug trafficking and murder. A former prosecutor in Miami-Dade County, Chad Piotrowski has the unique ability to anticipate prosecution strategies to help build a solid defense to help obtain the best possible outcome for his clients.