Fort Lauderdale contains over 165 miles of waterways that provide access to the Atlantic Ocean for boaters to enjoy a ride, go fishing, or sunbathe—the perfect time to enjoy a cocktail or a cold beer in the Florida sun. However, operating a boat after drinking alcohol is illegal and might lead to an accident, injury, and in the worst cases, death. If you the are the owner and/or operator of a boat in Fort Lauderdale and get caught by authorities while boating under the influence of alcohol, you face harsh penalties under Florida law.
If you have been arrested and charged with boating under the influence (BUI), you need to hire a skilled defense attorney as soon as possible. A BUI is a criminal offense under Florida law, which can impact your job, your finances, and land you jail for months or years. An experienced BUI defense lawyer can fight to get the best outcome for your individual situation.
If you or a loved one has been arrested in Broward County and charged with BUI, and you are searching for an experienced attorney, contact the skilled BUI defense attorneys at Meldon Law at (954) 334-1276 to discuss the details of your charges and arrest and to determine the best path forward given your specific situation.
Meldon Law’s Results in Defending BUI Charges
The skilled legal team at Meldon Law has represented dozens of clients who have been charged and arrested for boating and driving under the influence of alcohol. Our continuous dedication to our clients has resulted in getting charges dropped, having charges reduced to a lesser offense, and securing reductions in penalties in more than 100 cases in Florida courts. Whether this is your first boating under the influence charge, or you have a previous DUI or BUI conviction, you are guaranteed due process and the right to qualified legal representation. The criminal defense attorneys at Meldon Law will advocate for you and pursue the best outcome for your individual situation.
What Is BUI?
Many individuals assume that a BUI is the same as a DUI; however, they differ in several major ways. In a car, passengers cannot drink, and drivers cannot drink even if their car is parked and off. However, under Florida law, it is not illegal to drink while hanging out on your boat, but it is illegal to operate your boat with a blood-alcohol level or breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or more, or if you demonstrate an impairment of your normal faculties to law enforcement. Another major difference between a DUI and a BUI is that law enforcement doesn’t need probable cause to board your boat; whereas the police must have probable cause to conduct a traffic stop.
Although boating under the influence most commonly involves alcohol use, drug use can also result in a BUI charge. Florida law includes a wide variety of chemical substances the use of which while operating a boat can lead to a BUI charge. These substances include cannabis, opioids, opioid derivatives, heroin, cocaine, salts, many prescription drugs, and others. Florida law also prohibits the use of inhalants and chemical compounds, such as hexane, trichloroethylene, acetone, toluene, ethyl acetate, methyl ethyl ketone, trichloroethane, isopropanol, methyl isobutyl ketone, cyclohexanone, nitrous oxide, and many other chemical substances.
Penalties for BUI
Penalties for boating under the influence (BUI) mirror the penalties for a DUI conviction. If a boat operator causes property damage or injury, the penalties are much harsher. And if the accident involves a fatality, the offender may face life in prison as punishment. Furthermore, repeat offenders will receive increased penalties. Your attorney will advise you on what the minimum and maximum penalties are for your charges, but below we discuss some broad guidelines:
- Fines. An individual’s first BUI conviction carries a minimum $500 fine and a maximum of $1,000. A second conviction carries a minimum $1,000 fine. Subsequent BUIs carry at least a $2,000 fine. If the boat operator has a BAC or BAL greater than 0.15 percent, or anyone under the age of 18 is on the boat, he or she can expect to pay at least $2,000, regardless of the number of previous BUI convictions.
- Jail time. Florida law does not mandate jail time for offenders convicted of BUI until they have two or more convictions within five years. However, a judge can order up to six months in jail for a first time offender if the judge determines that the circumstances warrant such a punishment. A second conviction will result in a minimum of 10 days in jail, and a judge can order up to nine months in jail. Minimum and maximum times increase with subsequent convictions, high BACs, and the presence of minor children.
- Probation. For individuals convicted of extreme BUI, which involves a BAC greater than 0.15 percent, the law mandates that they submit to probation. First-time offenders typically get one-year of probation and community service, but repeat offenders may receive as much as 10 years of probation.
- Impoundment. A court will usually impound a boat when an offender is convicted of extreme BUI. The court will first impound the boat for 10 days. A second conviction will result in a 30-day impoundment and subsequent convictions for 90 days.
- Substance abuse program. In Florida, all individuals convicted of a BUI who had a BAC that exceeded 0.15 percent must attend a substance abuse program approved by the court.
Hire a Fort Lauderdale BUI Defense Attorney
Getting charged with BUI comes with many complexities that are not always present in other charges. In addition to local authorities, any federal agency can board a boat once you are more than three nautical miles from the Fort Lauderdale coast. This includes the U.S. Coast Guard, Customs, Border Control, the FBI, the DEA, and more. Another complication involves operation; under Florida law, you can operate a boat without actually being at the wheel. If law enforcement boards your boat, everyone is drunk, and nobody is at the helm, you will get a BUI as the owner or the individual on the rental agreement.
If you have been arrested for a BUI in Fort Lauderdale, it’s in your best interest to let a BUI defense attorney navigate the legal complexities of your case and advocate for you in court. Call the skilled BUI defense attorneys at Meldon Law at (954) 334-1276, or contact us online, for a confidential free consultation to discuss the circumstances of your charges and your legal options.