Summer Safety on the Water
Article by Attorney Clementine Conde
Summertime in Florida is a great time to hit the water and have some fun! In the Tampa Bay area, we are fortunate to have so many beautiful areas to explore on the water however we must always be cautious as boating can also be very dangerous.
Although it is legal to have an alcoholic beverage and navigate a boat, it is illegal to be under the influence or impaired. Florida Boating under the Influence (BUI) cases charged under Florida Statute Section 327.35(1) are treated seriously mainly because Florida leads the nation in the yearly number of boating deaths. Studies indicate that one-third of all recreational boating fatalities involve the use of alcohol. Add to alcohol consumption the use of prescription medication such as Xanax® or painkillers and the number of accidents only increases.
The agency that polices the lovely waterways of Florida is The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. These Officers can stop your boat for violating the wake laws and also can do a safety inspection of your boat. If they suspect you have been drinking or otherwise seem impaired, they can ask for a breathalyzer and ask you to perform a serious of sobriety exercises. If you refuse said tests, the Officer can arrest you based on his/her observations. If you refuse the breath test, the refusal can be used against you in court and if it is a second refusal, then you can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. Any prior refusal for a breath test would count toward said criminal charge. This includes any refusals from a Driving Under the Influence investigation.
The penalties that apply to a conviction for a BUI are almost identical to the penalties pursuant to a DUI conviction however there is no driver’s license revocation for a BUI. This includes enhanced penalties for a breath test over .15 to include an increased fine. In addition, the penalty is enhanced if the suspect has a minor under 18 years old aboard the boat.
It is important to note that any previous conviction for a DUI regardless of the state counts as a prior offense which increases the penalties for a BUI conviction. Depending upon the prior conviction, this could mean significant fines and/or jail time. You may also be charged with a felony depending on the number of prior convictions for DUI or BUI. A conviction for BUI does not bar any civil suit for damages against the person so convicted.
Our firm vigorously represents individuals charged with BUI. Please call us for a free consultation and have a great summer!