Boating Under the Influence
Florida makes operating a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol a criminal offense. Nevertheless, each year, many people are stopped doing just that—and sometimes the results are disastrous.
One tragic case has been in the news recently. In 2012, Robert Everson and his wife, Wendy, were riding in a dinghy off Key West to get to their sailboat. But the wake of a passing boat caused their dinghy to tip over, spilling both Everson’s into the water. Robert survived but Wendy, who almost drowned, died in the hospital a few days later.
Police found that Robert’s blood alcohol content was high and arrested him. He fled to Indiana but was ultimately found and convicted. Recently, Robert received a 10-year sentence.
Florida’s Law on Boating Under the Influence (BUI)
You can find the statute at section 327.35. It criminalizes operating a vessel within Florida if:
- The operator is under the influence of alcohol or drugs so that his or her normal faculties are impaired
- The operator has a BAC of 0.08 or higher, as measured by a blood or breath test
Under the statute, a vessel is defined as all watercraft, barge, or airboat but not a seaplane.
As you can see, the law does not require that you have any BAC, since you are breaking the law so long as your faculties are impaired by any amount of drugs or alcohol. If you were involved in an accident, then you can expect closer scrutiny of the actions you took leading up to the crash.
Penalties for BUI
The penalties will depend on whether this is the operator’s first or a subsequent offense. It also matters whether the operator’s BAC was very high or whether a minor was on the boat at the time also.
Generally, a first BUI offense is a second-degree misdemeanor which carries the following:
- Up to 6 months in jail
- Fine between $500 and $1,000
- Mandatory probation, including community service
- Impoundment or immobilization of vessel
If the operator had a BAC of 0.15% of a minor in the vessel, then even a first offense will warrant punishment similar to that of someone who has a second offense.
A second BUI offense carries steeper penalties, including:
- Up to 9 months in jail
- Fines between $1,000 and $2,000
- Impoundment of vessel
If this is a second conviction within 5 years, then an operator faces a mandatory 10 days in jail. If his or her BAC was 0.15% or the operator had a minor in the vessel, then they are looking at up to a year in jail and fines ranging from $2,000 to $4,000.
A third BUI offense can be classified as a felony if it happened within 10 years of another BUI offense. Felony penalties are steep:
- Up to 5 years in prison (minimum of 30 days in jail)
- Up to $5,000 in fines
If the operator had no prior convictions within the past 10 years, then it is a misdemeanor and carries punishment of:
- Up to a year in jail
- A fine between $2,000 and $5,000
If someone died in an accident, then the operator could be charged with manslaughter or another crime, which will carry even more serious penalties.
Bundza & Rodriguez is a leading firm in the area. If you have been arrested for BUI, you should contact our Daytona Beach criminal defense attorneys today 386-252-5170. We offer a free consultation, so please avoid delay.