Florida is a peninsula state, with thousands of square miles of beaches, lakes, riverways, and swamps. It may, therefore, be no surprise that Florida ranked number one in the nation for boating accidents and boating fatalities in 2015. Also in 2015, the Coast Guard reported that Florida led the nation in boating mishaps. These statistics are unfortunately consistent; in 2014 the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recorded 634 reported boating mishaps that resulted in 73 deaths.
Boat accidents and mishaps may be caused by a number of factors, including but not limited to hazardous weather, mechanical failure, excessive speed, operator inexperience, and navigational rules violations. Unfortunately, alcohol use is also a leading cause of boat accidents. Under Florida law, a person may be boating under the influence (BUI) if the driver of a boat has used alcohol or any chemical substance controlled by statute, exhibits impaired faculties, or has a breath- or blood-alcohol level of more than 0.08.
The Palm Beach County personal injury lawyers at Meldon Law in Palm Beach County are experienced in boating under the influence cases. We have assisted victims of accidents for more than 40 years, and have effectively negotiated for clients against insurance companies and successfully advocated for clients when litigation has been necessary. If you have been involved in a boating accident, or been charged with boating under the influence, contact Meldon Law at 800-373-8000 or online and schedule a free consultation.
Meldon Law Results
While every case is unique, and past results do not guarantee future outcomes, our record of success shows that we work hard for our client’s best interests:
- A police officer stopped a Gainesville, Florida resident whose vehicle was pulled up beyond the stop bar at a traffic signal. Upon confronting the driver, the officer noticed a strong alcohol odor and asked the driver if he had been drinking. The driver admitted to having drunk two to three beers. The driver agreed to a Standardized Field Sobriety Exercises, which he did not pass. The driver, after his arrest, submitted to a breath test that found him to have a score of .174g/210L. Because of intervention by the Meldon Law team, the driver was admitted to the DUI Deferral Program and upon completion, his charges were reduced to Reckless Driving.
- When a law enforcement officer saw a driver weaving, drifting, speeding, and accelerating, the officer stopped the vehicle. The officer identified suspected alcohol on the woman’s breath and noted her bloodshot eyes. The driver admitted she had imbibed and she did not pass the sobriety test. After her arrest, her breath test registered .091g/210L. After retaining Meldon Law, her DUI status decreased to Reckless Driving with Alcohol.
- A police officer stopped a driver who made a right turn at a stoplight without stopping. The officer smelled alcohol, noticed the operator’s bloodshot eyes, and that she was off balance. Both the driver and her passenger admitted to drinking. After failing the sobriety test, the officer arrested the driver and tested for alcohol. The breathalyzer test registered .154g/210L. When the driver hired Meldon Law, attorneys filed two Motions to Suppress because the breath tests were inadmissible. The Driving under the Influence charge was subsequently changed to Reckless Driving with Alcohol.
(The results mentioned are specific to the facts and legal circumstances of these particular cases. Results do not guarantee the same outcomes for clients in similar situations without reference to the specific factual and legal circumstances of each case.)
The Florida Definition of Boating Under the Influence
Boating under the influence is as deadly as drinking and driving a motor vehicle, and that is why it is illegal to operate a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The penalties for boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs include fines, suspensions or revocations of boating licenses, and jail.
Under Florida law:
A person is guilty of the offense of boating under the influence and is subject to punishment as provided in [a following subsection] if the person is operating a vessel within this state and:
a. 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;
b. The person has a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood; or
c. The person has a breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.
Chemical substances included in the Florida statute referenced above are hexane, trichloroethylene, acetone, toluene, ethyl acetate, methyl ethyl ketone, trichloroethane, isopropanol, methyl isobutyl ketone, cyclohexanone, nitrous oxide, diethyl ether, alkyl nitrites (butyl nitrite), and more. Controlled substances include cannabis, fentanyl, its derivatives, heroin, salts, and numerous other chemical compounds.
Florida Penalties for Boating Under the Influence
In Florida, penalties for boating under the influence include:
- First conviction – $500 to $1,000 fine, or up to six months imprisonment.
- Second conviction – $1,000 to $2,000 fine, or up to nine months imprisonment.
- Third conviction – Occurring more than ten years after the last conviction results in a fine of $2,000 to $5,000 and imprisonment of not more than 12 months. If the third offense occurs within ten years of a prior conviction, the offense becomes a felony of the third degree and the crime could be punishable by life in prison or the death penalty.
- Fourth conviction – Felony of the third degree, punishable by life in prison or the death penalty.
Conditions That Can Increase Penalties for Boating Under the Influence
A person boating under the influence who causes an accident that results in property damage, injury, or fatality, has committed a felony. The refusal to submit to alcohol, drug, or other intoxicating substance testing is punishable by a civil penalty of $500, and is a crime if the operator received a fine for a previous refusal.
If a person has blood alcohol or breath alcohol concentration of 0.15 or more or had a passenger in the boat younger than 18 years old, the person convicted of the BUI can receive a fine of as much as $5,000 and a jail sentence of one year.
Palm Beach County Boating Under the Influence Attorneys
Meldon Law is in the business of advocating for our clients. We respect that those who come to us needing legal counsel are most likely experiencing incredible stress and anxiety. Therefore, our motto is “You Matter Most.” We have the highest professional standards of service, and we’re very selective with our caseload to ensure we have the resources and time that every client deserves from their lawyer.
Meldon Law offers free consultation to discuss cases with potential clients. If we agree to represent you, a payment plan may be possible. Contact Meldon Law at 800-373-8000 or online and learn if we may be able to help you.
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Founder of the Meldon Law FirmEmail Jeffrey Meldon