With one more big holiday left before the temperature begins to drop, it’s still time to reeducate everyone on the importance of boating safety. Florida is a boater’s paradise. The state tops the country for the most coastline, coming in at 8436 miles of shore. Between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, it’s no surprise boats are a common sight, especially during the summer. With boating being a big recreational activity in Florida, law enforcement must keep a keen eye on safety infractions, especially during holidays.
Florida is blessed with an abundance of waterways, and as such, there are just as many boats to fill those bodies of water. Florida also leads the country in registered recreational boating vessels at the last count, coming in at a whopping 959,000! It can be a deadly mix when you add this many potential boating vessels with summer fun and sun. The penalties and fines for boating under the influence in Florida reflect the seriousness of the crime.
Florida Boating Under the Influence Laws
Using drugs or alcohol when operating a boat is an illegal offense in Florida. According to Florida Statute 327.35, boating under the influence (BUI) charges apply to the actions of operating a boat with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) level greater than 0.08. It is also illegal to operate a boat or watercraft while using drugs. The standard states that a person who is drunk or high should not operate a boat or watercraft. Like driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, a person who is impaired has a slower reaction time, an inability to concentrate on the task at hand, and their overall judgment and ability to make decisions in real-time are impaired. Boating under the influence is a misdemeanor offense, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a serious crime.
Penalties for Boating Under the Influence in Florida
If you are charged with boating under the influence in Florida, the court will consider all the evidence in your case, including your criminal record. The court will specifically look for any prior BUI convictions to determine sentencing and penalties. According to Florida Statute 327.35, the penalties for boating under the influence include a combination of jail time, fines, and community service.
The penalties for violation of Florida Statute 327.35 are as follows:
- First conviction, not less than $500 or more than $1,000
- Second conviction, not less than $1,000 or more than $2,000
- Third conviction, any person who is convicted of a third violation of this section for an offense that occurs more than 10 years after the date of a prior conviction for a violation of this section shall be punished by a fine of not less than $2,000 or more than $5,000
- First conviction, no more than 6 months, and a maximum of 50 hours of community service
- Second conviction, no more than 9 months and 50 hours of community service
- Third conviction, any person who is convicted of a third conviction of this section for an offense that occurs within 10 years after a prior conviction for a violation of this section commits a felony of the third degree punishable by imprisonment for not more than 12 months.
These penalties and fines can be enhanced if the BUI led to additional crimes or injuries. If a defendant causes an accident that was responsible for someone involved to suffer serious injuries, the BUI could be enhanced to a third-degree felony, which cares imprisonment of no more than five years in prison. If, while operating a boat or watercraft, an intoxicated defendant causes the death of a human being, the charges could be elevated to BUI manslaughter, which is a second-degree felony. BUI manslaughter carries a prison sentence of 15 years or less. Lastly, if a defendant causes a boat crash and fails to stop and render aid, they could be charged with a first-degree felony, which carries a sentence of 30 years or less.
Defenses in Florida Boating Under the Influence Cases
If you’ve been charged with a BUI, you must start working with an attorney to build a defense case immediately. Your continued freedom may come down to the strength of your legal defense and strategy.
Call us today at (941) 960-7225 to schedule a consultation, or you can use our online contact form to request more information.