An Overview of Florida Boating Under the Influence Law

An Overview of Florida Boating Under the Influence Law

With its easy access to waterways, location between the Gulf of Mexico and the North Atlantic Ocean, high volume of tourists during summer months, and year-round sun, the State of Florida is a haven for boaters. However, Florida leads the nation in its number of boating accidents. While the number of boating accidents attributable to alcohol is unclear, boating under the influence (BUI) is understandably considered a serious crime in Florida.

The crime of boating under the influence is governed by Florida Statute § 327.35, which provides that a person is guilty of the offense of boating under the influence if they are operating a vessel in the state and is under the influence of alcoholic beverages or certain substances when affected to the extent the person’s normal faculties are impaired.

The second method of proving boating under the influence is establishing an unlawful blood or breath-alcohol level, which is defined under the BUI statute as a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, or a breath-alcohol level of 0.08 grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.

A conviction of boating under the influence can lead to fines, imprisonment, probation, attendance at a substance abuse course, substance abuse evaluation and treatment, community service, and impoundment or immobilization of the vessel. Whether a defendant has been convicted of a prior boating under the influence crime directly impacts how the present BUI offense is classified. Any prior conviction of driving under the influence constitutes a conviction for boating under the influence for these purposes.

On May 27, 2009, the Governor of Florida approved an amendment to the boating under the influence statute. The change lowered the blood-alcohol or breath-alcohol level to 0.15 from 0.20. This change means the sanctions are now enhanced or higher if the alcohol level is at or above 0.15. The 0.08 blood-alcohol and breath-alcohol level remains the same.

Apart from the general Fourth Amendment protections against illegal search and seizure, boating under the influences arrests are subject to less protection when the arrest stems from a stop by the U.S. Coast Guard, a customs official or local law enforcement. They may board a vessel any time to conduct an inspection, without reasonable suspicion of unlawful activity or probable cause. 14 U.S.C. § 89; Saunders v. State, 758 So. 2d 724 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2000) and 19 U.S.C. § 1581(a); U.S. v. Villamonte-Marquez, 462 U.S. 579 (1983). The ability of these officials to board a vessel at anytime means that an operator of a boat should take extreme caution and care when consuming alcohol and navigating the waterways.

A BUI charge is easier to avoid than to fight in a court of law. Therefore, please be cautious while enjoying the one of the best outdoor activities that the State of Florida has to offer. If you do find yourself in this unfortunate circumstance, or facing any driving under the influence charge, do not hesitate to call experienced St. Petersburg BUI defense attorneys at Rooth Law Group, P.A. today for a free consultation.

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