On a hot day, nothing beats hopping on the boat and enjoying the beautiful waterways of Northwest Florida. With such excursions come great responsibilities, however, as boaters face several hazards not present on Florida roads. Unfortunately, many residents treat boating and drinking as inextricably linked, with boats regarded as the perfect setting for kicking back and relaxing with a beer. Unfortunately, even low levels of alcohol can impact how otherwise responsible individuals operate vessels, leaving them more likely to engage in risky behaviors. In recognition of these risks, Destin-area law enforcement officials have stepped up their efforts to hold local boaters accountable. The sooner you get in the know, the better — the last thing you need is to end your summer with a BUI in Destin, FL.
What Is Boating Under the Influence?
Referenced in 327.35 of the Florida Statutes, boating under the influence occurs when a boater consumes alcohol or controlled substances while operating water-based vessels. Echoing local DUI laws, the boater’s blood alcohol content (BAC) cannot exceed 0.08.
What Are the Penalties for BUI in Destin?
BUI penalties can vary considerably based on your criminal background — and whether your impairment prompts property damage or bodily harm. In general, a first conviction results in a fine of anywhere between $500 and $1,000. Upon the second conviction, this fine increases to a maximum of $2,000 — followed by a maximum of $5,000 for a third conviction.
In addition to paying huge fines, alleged offenders may also spend time behind bars. With the first conviction, this cannot exceed six months, versus a maximum of nine months for a second conviction. Harsher consequences may accompany third convictions or charges of BUI-related manslaughter.
How Are BUI Laws Enforced?
Boating is a voluntary recreational activity, so vessel operators in Florida do not enjoy nearly as many rights as local drivers. Random safety stops and compliance checks can happen at any time — and as a boater, you are required to play ball. As with vehicles on the road, law enforcement officials may also stop boats if they have reason to believe that either the operator or passenger has violated the law while aboard the vessel.
Common BUI Defenses
Given the broad authority and discretion granted to law enforcement officials patrolling Destin waters, BUI cases may seem all but hopeless. In reality, however, their defense is sometimes more straightforward than that required for DUIs. Factors that favor boaters include:
- The unreliability of field sobriety tests. Swaying boats and sun exposure regularly lead to false positives when officers substitute blood alcohol or breathalyzer tests with field sobriety exercises. Invalidated field sobriety tests may weaken probable cause to perform other types of tests once the boater reaches land.
- Anchored boats during safety checks. Most safety checks occur when boats are anchored or not in operation. In such situations, it’s all but impossible for officers to demonstrate that the alleged offender was actively operating the vessel while impaired.
If you have been accused of boating under the influence, it is critical that you seek legal representation as soon as possible. Attorney John F. Greene can help. He is willing to assist you in navigating the local criminal justice system as you seek a favorable outcome. Get in touch online or call 850-424-6833 to arrange for your case consultation.