BUI: An Overview of the Laws and Penalties

Enforcement of boating laws and regulations in Florida is overseen by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). The FWC’s law enforcement division is responsible for patrolling the waterways, enforcing boating laws, and responding to boating-related accidents and emergencies. Working in partnership with local law enforcement agencies and other organizations, the FWC’s goal is to ensure the safety and enjoyment of Florida’s waterways.

If you’ve found yourself facing a Boating Under the Influence (BUI) charge, the legal team at the Law Office of Robert H. Hanaford understands the severe consequences of a BUI conviction and can help you build a strong defense against the charges. Our experienced BUI defense lawyers will work with you to develop a strategy that best suits your individual case so you can achieve the best outcome possible. In this article, we will explore the laws and penalties for BUI convictions in Florida.

Overview of BUI Laws and Penalties in Florida

Florida statute 327.35 states that no person may operate a vessel in Florida waters while under the influence of alcohol or various controlled substances. The blood alcohol content (BAC) legal limit in Florida for alcohol is 0.08 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. 

If a person is found to be operating a vessel under the influence, they may be subject to penalties such as fines, jail time, and/or other punitive measures. In addition to the criminal penalties, a person may also be civilly liable for any damages caused while operating a vessel while under the influence.

For those convicted of a BUI in Florida, the following penalties may be enforced:

First Offense

If the BAC is between 0.08 and 0.14, fines will be a minimum of $500 to a maximum of $1,000 and up to six months in jail. Additionally, the accused may face probation of up to one year and 50 hours of community service. However, the combined incarceration and probation cannot exceed one year. 

So, if the judge decides upon six months in jail, the defendant may only get six months of probation. The vessel in question will also be impounded or immobilized for up to 10 days. However, the impoundment period cannot run concurrently with the defendant’s sentence. 

The defendant can also expect to foot the bill for a substance abuse course as demanded by the court. The course must be approved by the state, and the defendant may also be required to submit to a psychosocial evaluation as part of the treatment course. 

Second Offense

If the BAC is between 0.08 and 0.14, fines will be a minimum of $1,000 to a maximum of $2,000 and up to nine months of incarceration. However, if the second offense occurs within five years of the first offense, the defendant faces a mandatory minimum of 10 days in jail. The impoundment of the vessel will be for up to 30 days with at least 48 hours of consecutive impoundment of the vessel and incarceration of the individual. Additionally, the defendant will be required to complete the probation, community service, and substance abuse treatment courses as outlined above. 

If the BAC is above 0.15 or there is a minor onboard the vessel at the time of the offense, once again, the defendant faces a harsher penalty. Fines incurred will be a minimum of $2,000 up to a maximum of $4,000 and up to 12 months of incarceration in addition to the above-mentioned penalties.

Three or More BUI Convictions

If a defendant has had two prior convictions within 10 years of the third offense, they will face a third-degree felony. The penalty for third-degree felonies in Florida is a minimum of 30 days and up to five years in prison, five years of probation, and $5,000 in fines. 

Finally, for the fourth or subsequent convictions, regardless of the time in between each conviction, the defendant will face third-degree felony charges as outlined above and a minimum fine of $2,000 for each offense. 

Contact the Law Office of Robert H. Hanaford Today for Help

Being accused of a Boating Under the Influence (BUI) charge can be a serious matter. The penalties for a BUI conviction can include jail time, fines, and a permanent record that can affect many areas of your life. If you have been charged with a BUI, it is important to have an experienced Naples criminal defense lawyer on your side.

The lawyers at the Law Office of Robert H. Hanaford are experienced in defending clients charged with BUI. Whether it is negotiating with the prosecutor to reduce the charges or fighting the charges in court, our legal team has the experience and knowledge to provide you with the best legal representation. Contact us online or call us at (239) 315-9750 today to schedule a free consultation and discuss your case.

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