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Boating Under the Influence: What You Should Know

Group of friends drinking on a boat

As we approach warmer weather and long summer days, there’s nothing like going out on a boat to have a good time. However, good times can come at a cost if you or someone else takes the helm under the influence. In fact, the U.S. Coast Guard boating accident statistics show that alcohol use is one of the top five causes of boating accidents, often resulting in fatalities. Boats aren’t the typical vehicles you think of when you hear the term “driving under the influence,” but driving or operating a boat under the influence (BUI) can have serious consequences.

Florida Boating Laws

Miami prohibits the operation of any vessel under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Vessels can include any watercraft, barge, airboat, or form of transportation on water. Miami law enforcement can arrest you for boating under the influence if you are impaired and/or have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher.

What Are the Penalties for a BUI?

BUI penalties depend on several factors, including:

  • A previous BUI or DUI conviction
  • An excessive blood alcohol concentration
  • Operating under the influence with a minor in the vessel
  • An accident involving property damage, injury, or death due to boating under the influence

It’s important to note that a DUI (driving under the influence) conviction counts as a previous count in a BUI case. In other words, if you have a prior DUI and you are charged with a BUI, you may be charged with a second offense BUI, which has more severe penalties.

First offenders will have to pay a fine of up to $1,000 and spend a maximum of six months in jail. A first offense BUI misdemeanor could be elevated to a felony if the accident involved injury, death, damage, or a BAC higher than .15%. For accidents that result in fatalities, you could face 30 years in prison or 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Second offenders have to pay up to $2,000 in fines and spend a maximum of nine months in jail, but if the second offense takes place within five years of a prior BUI or DUI, your vessel will be impounded for 30 days.

Third offense BUIs depend on the period between a previous charge. If you have a third BUI within ten years of a prior charge, the crime is elevated to a felony. In these cases, you may face five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. All third-time offenders will also face vessel impoundment for at least 90 days.

Boating and Implied Consent

According to the law, you give your “implied consent” to chemical testing if you choose to operate any vehicle, including a boat, under the influence. In other words, by choosing to operate your boat on open water, you are subject to a BAC test if an officer believes you are boating under the influence.

Other Consequences of a BUI

BUIs can leave a lasting stain on your record that is accessible by the public. Employers can search for previous criminal charges and convictions and use a previous BUI to inform their hiring decisions. Regardless of the other circumstances surrounding your BUI, there is little sympathy in the eyes of the court and the public.

However, you deserve proper representation. BUIs are serious charges that can ruin your way of life, but an experienced attorney can help you pursue justice and defend your future.

If you have been accused of a BUI in Miami, don’t hesitate to contact The Hoffman Firm.

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