In Florida, many people love to spend weekends and holidays on the water. Some of those enjoying time on their boats may drink alcoholic beverages or partake of illicit narcotics, which places them at risk of being arrested for Boating under the Influence, or BUI. Under many circumstances the Coast Guard and local law enforcement agents can board your vessel and potentially arrest you for BUI. If this occurs, contact a skilled BUI defense attorney immediately.
What is a BUI?
Florida law prohibits operating a vessel within the state while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A person can be convicted of boating under the influence (BUI) for operating a vessel while:
- “Affected to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired” by drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two; or
- Having a blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater.
The consequences of boating under the influence are generally not as severe as with a DUI. Your driver’s license will not be suspended but there can be fines and penalties if convicted. Also, if you are convicted of a BUI, it will count as a prior conviction if you are ever arrested for a DUI.
The penalties for a Florida BUI depend on a number of factors, including whether the operator:
- Has prior BUI or driving under the influence (DUI) convictions;
- Had an excessive BAC;
- Had a person under 18 years old in the vessel at the time of the offense; and
- Caused or contributed to an accident involving property damage, injury, or death.
Most first-offense BUIs are second-degree misdemeanors carry fines and require community service if convicted. There are other minimum-required fines and penalties, including jail time that can be incurred if there was an accident resulting in an injury or death, this is the person’s second or third offense, etc.
Defending a BUI
If you are arrested for a BUI, the first thing you need to do is to hire a criminal defense attorney who has specific experience defending BUI cases. The reason is that the consequences and defenses for BUI are different than DUI and you want someone who knows how to achieve the best results given the charges you face.
At Stechschulte Nell we begin our BUI defense process by evaluating:
- Did the arresting law enforcement agent have legal cause to stop your vessel? For example, were you violating regulations or in a restricted area?
- Did the arresting law enforcement agent utilize the correct field sobriety test and was it administered appropriately. Because of the inherent equilibrium challenges of being on eh water, there are different tests for a BUI than a DUI, and even if the correct ones were used, the results can still be challenged.
- If there is a breath result submitted, was it a valid sample and how long did it take to obtain it?
We use this information, as well as additional factors, to attempt to have the charges dismissed or to negotiate a lesser charge such as reckless operation of a vessel or careless operation of a vessel. Our goal is to keep the BUI off your record so that it doesn’t appear as an alcohol-related offense.
Board certified criminal defense attorney Ben Stechschulte has extensive experience representing BUI clients. He understand the immediate and potentially long-term consequences of a BUI conviction and will work to mitigate its impact on your life. Contact us today to learn more about our BUI representation and how we can help you.