With almost 1,200 miles of coastline, hundreds of lakes, and a massive river system, it should be no surprise that boating is a popular pastime in the state of Florida. Along with the people who call Florida home year around, Florida is also a popular tourist destination – particularly in the winter months when northern “snowbirds” flee the cold in search of warm weather, sandy beaches, and water sports. Whether you live in Florida or are just visiting, you need to be aware of felony DUI in Florida – particularly the boating under the influence laws.
Florida is one of many states that have made boating under the influence, or BUI, a criminal offense similar to its dry land counterpart, driving under the influence. Section 327.35 of the Florida Statutes governs boating under the influence. According to the statute, a person can be found guilty of BUI if he or she is operating a vessel and:
· The person is under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any chemical substance set forth in s. 877.111, or any substance controlled under chapter 893, when affected to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired
· The person has a blood-alcohol level, or BAC, of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood
· The person has a breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath
Florida also has a “zero tolerance” law for BUI that addresses under-age boaters. Anyone under the age of 21 who is found to be operating a boat with a BAC of 0.02 or higher can be found guilty of BUI. Furthermore, if you are stopped while boating by a law enforcement officer and the officer suspects you of BUI you are required to submit to a breathalyzer, just as given at a dry land DUI stop. Refusal to submit to a breathalyzer can result in additional fines and penalties.
A first time conviction for BUI carries with it a fine of $500 to $1,000 and a possible term of incarceration not to exceed six months. A second conviction can cost you up to $2,000 in fines and you face up to nine months in jail. A third conviction within ten years raises the offense to a felony which significantly increase the possible penalties. If your BAC is 0.15 or higher at the time of the offense, or you have someone in the boat that is under the age of 18 at the time, both the fine and the possible term of imprisonment are increased.
If you plan to take to the water in Florida in a boat or other type of water vessel it is imperative that you remember that BUI is taken seriously in the state. Just as you would designate a driver if you planned to drink while out for the day on dry land, you may wish to do the same if you plan on having a few beers or cocktails while out on your boat in Florida.