Florida’s pristine coastline and endless waterways make it ideal for boating activities. Unfortunately, alcohol contributes to many boating accidents, resulting in serious injuries or even death. Consequently, Florida has stringent boating laws that make it illegal to operate a boat while under the influence (BUI) of drugs or alcohol. Therefore, BUIs are serious charges that come with harsh punishments.

You should act quickly to speak with a dedicated Florida BUI defense attorney at the Law Office of Robert H. Hanaford if you were arrested and charged with BUI. Our criminal defense lawyers have a track record of providing superior legal representation in various BUI cases and can also help you.

BUI Laws in Florida

Like driving under the influence, Florida law prohibits operating a vessel while intoxicated or impaired. Therefore, it’s not uncommon to be stopped by law enforcement officers and subjected to a sobriety test. A person may be charged with BUI charges if they’re operating a vessel while:

Under the influence to the extent that their normal faculties are impaired

Have a breath or blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more

These laws apply to all types of boats and vessels that can be used for transportation on water. Therefore, you may still face BUI charges, even if you were floating on a canoe or a motorboat.

Florida Boating Under the Influence (BUI) Penalties

Depending on the circumstances of the accident, BUI can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony and can result in severe penalties. The penalties are even more severe if your BUI charges include the following:

An excessive blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.15 or more

Had people under 18 years aboard

Cause severe injuries and property damage

Caused or contributed to an accident that led to death

Multiple BUIs or prior DUI convictions can lead to serious felonies and jail time.

First-Offense BUI Penalties

An individual convicted of BUI for the first time may face the following penalties:

Fines of between $500 and $1,000

Imprisonment for not more than six months

Excessive BAC or children aboard attracts up to nine months in jail and a fine of between $1,000-2,000

BUI accidents involving property damages and minor injuries can lead to one year in jail or a fine of $1000

Those leading to severe injuries can be punished by up to five years in prison or $5,000 in fines

First-time BUI accidents involving death attract a fine of $10,000 or a jail term of up to 30 years for a first-degree offense or 15 years for a second-degree crime.

Second-Offense BUI Penalties

Most second BUI charges are charged as second-degree misdemeanors in Florida. They attract a fine of between $1,000 and $2,000 or a sentence of up to nine months. Having a prior DUI or BUI conviction within the past five years requires a mandatory jail term of not less than ten days.

The offender’s boat or vessel may also be impounded for 30 days. You may also risk up to 12 months in jail or fines of up to $4,000 if you have a BAC of more than 0.15% or an underage passenger.

Third-Offense BUI Penalties

The defendant may be charged with a third-degree felony if you commit a third BUI offense within the past 10 years. If convicted, they may serve up to five years in prison and pay $5,000 in fines. These charges also include a mandatory minimum stay of 30 days in jail.

If the charges are after 10 years from the previous ones, an offender may serve a maximum sentence of one year and fines of up to $5,000. Your vessel could also be impounded or immobilized for 90 days.

Other Penalties

In addition to substantial fines and jail terms, individuals convicted of BUI will be on probation for up to a year. Moreover, they will be required to undergo a substance abuse program and community service. Convicted offenders will also deal with a tarnished record that makes it difficult to get employment, rent a home, and other life-long consequences.

Consult an Experienced Florida BUI Attorney at the Law Office of Robert H. Hanaford

BUI is a serious criminal offense in Florida. A conviction can lead to heavy fines, revoking boating privileges, and possible jail time. You’ll also have a criminal record that can have long-lasting effects on your life. Therefore, hiring a competent lawyer is essential when your future and freedom are on the line.

At the Law Office of Robert H. Hanaford, we understand that facing a Florida BUI charge can be overwhelming, and the outcome may feel uncertain. That’s why our skilled attorneys are ready to work tirelessly and aggressively fight to dismiss or reduce your BUI charge. Call us at (239) 315-9750 or fill out our online form now to schedule a free consultation with our BUI defense team.