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Boating Under The Influence


With the summer months approaching many people will take to the Florida’s vast and beautiful lakes, rivers, and other waterways for some fun in the sun. Keep in mind though that just because you are on the water and not a road or highway you aren’t immune from being arrested for operating a vessel under the influence. Boating under the influence or BUI is extremely similar to the offense of driving under the influence or DUI. Though BUI is listed under a separate chapter of the Florida Statutes in 327.35, the language used is to describe the offense and the consequences almost mirror that of a DUI.

The Legal Definition

Boating under the influence occurs when a person is operating a vessel with this state and the person is under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any chemical substances that are outlined in Florida Statute 877.111, or any controlled substances listed in chapter 893 (for example, marijuana) to the extent that their normal faculties are impaired. If you look at what a prosecutor would need to prove to convict a person of BUI is:

  1. That the defendant operated a vessel
  2. That while operating the vessel the defendant was under the influence of (Alcohol) (a chemical substance) (a controlled substances) to the extent their normal faculties where impaired or that the person had a breath / blood alcohol level of above a 0.08.

The 0.08 limit is the same limit that applies when a person is operating a motor vehicle.

What is also important to know the definition of operate means to be in charge or command of or in actual physical control of the vessel upon the waters of this state, or to have command of control of the vessel while is it underway. It even covers if the vessel is being towed by another vessel, if the person is responsible to control or steer that vessel. Also, the way the offense is worded by saying waters of this state includes many different bodies or water, the rivers, lakes, canals, intercoastal waterways, etc.

Differences And Similarities To DUI

One key difference between a DUI and BUI—besides the location in which they occur—is the mode of transportation used. A vessel is defined in jury instruction 28.5 as “a boat and includes every description of watercraft, barge and airboat, other than a seaplane, on the water used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water.”

When you look at the punishment for a BUI, it again mirrors the punishment of a DUI. For a first offense BUI you are facing a fine between $500 and $1,000, just like a first offense DUI, and up to 180 days or 6 months in jail, which is again just like a DUI. A person will also have to complete at least 50 hours of community service, instead of a 10 days vehicle impound it is a 10-day vessel impoundment, however a conviction for BUI does not suspend a person driving license.

BUIs can also be enhanced like DUIs and punishment can become more serve for having prior offense, for causing property damage or for having a breath or blood alcohol level above a 0.15. For the purpose of enhancing a BUI offense from a first offense to a second offense a prosecutor may use a prior DUI conviction in Florida or any other state.

Call Meldon Law If You Face BUI Charges

If you have been arrested for BUI call and speak to one of the attorney’s at Meldon Law. There may be potential defenses for your case, such as attacking the stop of your vessel, although sometime FWC officers can conduct random safety checks on vessel, there still maybe an invalid stop. The officers may have mistaken impairment for something else, or maybe you weren’t in actual control of your vessel. Call 800-373-8000 to schedule your free consultation.

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