Florida BUI Penalties

What Are the Penalties for BUI in Florida?

Florida regards boating while under the influence as a serious offense. If a person is convicted of BUI, he or she will face harsh penalties. Florida leads the nation int boating deaths and accidents, and many laws and consequences are in place to help deter reckless and dangerous behavior.

Blood Alcohol Concentration Limits in Florida BUI Cases

Boating and drinking is treated similarly to drinking and driving. Boating and drinking is not illegal provided the person remains under the national legal limit for drivers at 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration levels. This requires boaters to understand how much they are drinking and not to go over the limit to the point that their boating behavior is affected by the influence of alcohol. Likewise, a boater cannot consume drugs and then boat as the smallest concentration can result in a conviction for BUI in Florida. If the consumption of alcohol or drugs causes impairment on the normal driving ability of the boater, he or she may need to stop boating. For anyone under the age of 21, the limit for BUI cases is 0.02 percent.

Probable Cause in BUI Cases in Florida

The officer involved in a BUI case must have probable cause that the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol before he or she can legally stop the boater. This is largely subjective. However, a reasonable belief of influence may be founded on observing the boater driving in an unsafe manner, violating boating laws or speeding. officer can also randomly stop boaters as long as certain legal criteria are met. Officers can generally stop boats to ensure boater safety, that enough life vests are on board, that equipment is in proper order and that the driver is not violating laws, such as fishing illegally. The officer may even perform a sobriety exercise to determine if the driver is under the influence.

Safe Boating in Florida

Boating accidents are serious matters in Florida because of the death and injury toll. Drivers must boat safely at all times. Reckless driving, speeding and getting too close to other boats or objects on the water are all issues that can lead to accidents. Drivers can be pulled over if they are not operating the vessel in a safe manner. To drive safely, this person must not drive into waves or cause large waves to occur. The boater should stay at a safe distance from other boats and objects and stop drinking long before he or she feels the effects of alcohol.

Implied Consent Law in Florida

While generally applied to DUI law, implied consent can affect the driver of a boat in Florida. Implied consent means that all operators of motor vehicles give their consent to be tested for the influence of drugs or alcohol during a lawful stop. An officer can pull a boater over whom he or she reasonably suspects of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol and require the boater to have his or her BAC tested. The individual can refuse, but administrative penalties are usually immediate through a suspension of boating privileges that can last for up to one year.

Penalties for BUI in Florida for First Offense

BUI convictions can result in serious penalties. For the first offense that does not involve aggravating factors, the boater can be charged with a misdemeanor offense. Fines are usually between $500 and $1,000 for a first offense. The defendant can be sentenced up to six months in a Florida county jail. Probation is often ordered, along with up to 50 hours of community service. Law enforcement can also impound the boat for ten days.

Penalties for BUI in Florida for Second Offense

A second BUI charge is a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida. The defendant faces up to nine months in a county jail and fines up to as $2,000. If this conviction occurs within five years of the previous BUI or a DUI conviction in Florida, the defendant is subject to a mandatory minimum stay of no less than ten days in jail. The boat can be impounded for a period of 30 days. These charges are more serious when they occur within five years of the first BUI conviction. The individual may face other action such as suspended or revoked boating privileges, depending on the level of severity in the case.

Penalties for BUI in Florida for Third Offense

A third BUI offense is a third-degree felony charge if it occurs within the past ten years of the second conviction. The individual may face up to five years in a Florida state prison. Fines can reach as much as $5,000. The defendant is subject to a mandatory minimum stay of 30 days in a county jail. However, if the charge occurs after ten years from the last conviction or charge, it is a misdemeanor and jail time lasts a maximum of one year. Fines are still between $2,000 and $5,000. Any aggravating factors can increase these numbers and time spent in either a jail or prison.

Penalties for BUI in Florida for Fourth Offense

A fourth BUI charge is considered a third-degree felony in Florida. For fourth or subsequent offenses, there is no grace period between charges. If a person has been convicted of at least three other BUI offenses during his or her lifetime, the next offense is charged as a fourth BUI offense. The penalties for this offense are usually more severe. Fines are usually not less than $2,000. A person who is convicted of a fourth offense BUI can face up to five years in a Florida state prison. . The judge can change these penalties to the maximum if he or she believes it is necessary.

Aggravating Factors in a BUI Offense in Florida

When police arrest a person for suspicion of BUI in Florida, there are certain aggravating factors that can increase the possible penalties. These factors usually involve property damage to another boat, injury to passengers, another driver or bystanders, or death. If the driver causes the death of anyone, he or she can face an elevation of a misdemeanor charge to a felony charge in BUI cases. Injury to passengers or others in the area can also increase penalties. The death of anyone changes the standard BUI offense into BUI manslaughter. Another aggravating factor is having a BAC level of 0.15 or higher. This is considered an extreme BAC level in Florida.

Additional BUI Violations in Florida

While the boat driver usually will face charges if he or she has a BAC level at or higher than 0.08 percent, he or she can also violate boating laws in other ways. If someone is in trouble, any failure to provide aid or give information to the authorities about the situation can lead to an offense if the other person suffers an injury or dies in the process. Knowledge of a crime taking place, of an injury or death on the water or related matters can lead to a charge of legal violations when the boating driver or passengers do not inform the proper authorities.

Evidence Used to Establish BUI in Florida

The prosecution can use all available evidence to try to establish the defendant's guilt. This evidence usually consists of the observations of the officer at the scene, reasonable suspicion of the influence of drugs or alcohol because of the behavior of the driver and even trash or debris that is located near the stop, such as beer bottles in the water. If the driver is reckless or gets too close to other boats or objects, this can be used against the defendant. Witnesses on the water may also testify against the defendant. Sometimes, the prosecution can acquire statements or testimony from the passengers to help convict the driver.

BUI Case Facts and Details in Florida

Boating laws extend to water skis, jet skis and other watercraft than just a boat or yacht. When charged with a BUI in Florida, a person can face possible consequences with his or her standard driver's license as well. If convicted, the boater will have a permanent criminal record. The suspension of the driver's license or boating privileges can start at one year and lead to a complete ban for life. Most minimum fines are set at $1,000, but the judge has wide discretion when sentencing the defendant.

Because the BUI affects the driver's license, a conviction can increase insurance premiums for both the boat and the car the boater owns. A person convicted of BUI offenses will have mandatory alcohol assessment, treatment programs and follow-up. The defendant can also be required to install an ignition interlock device on his or her vehicle for up to one year for BUI convictions.

Legal Defenses to BUI in Florida

The inspection of the watercraft requires proper identification of officers and reasonable suspicion that the person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. . Law enforcement does not need probable cause to board the boat, but they must have probable cause before searching the boat. If the boat was searched without a legal foundation, the boater's lawyer may be able to challenge the admissibility of any evidence found during an illegal search.

Another possible defense to BUI in Florida is that the person charged with the BUI offense was not operating the boat at the time. This person may drive the vessel at some point during the journey, but if he or she wants to drink and let someone else take charge, someone else may have been driving the boat at the time of the stop. The other person is often the designated driver or a backup boat operator. The other person must have a Boaters Safety ID card and not have alcohol in his or her system to effectively take over for the previous driver. Police may arrest the person under the influence stating that he or she was driving, but if the boater was not driving during the time in question, his or her lawyer may raise this defense

Refusing the Blood, Breathe or Urine Test in Florida

The implied consent laws that affect DUI offenses also extend to boating offenses. For BUI suspicion, the officer can require the person to take a blood or breathe test for alcohol and a urine or blood test for drugs. The first time the person refuses to comply with this law, he or she can face a fine for $5,000 and possible first-degree misdemeanor charges if the fine goes unpaid for 30 days. Then, the individual can also face up to one year in jail and a one-year probation period with a fine of $1,000.

A second refusal is considered a first-degree misdemeanor charge if the officer believes the person is under the influence when driving a boat. This refusal often occurs after the previous fine and can result in significant penalties. . However, the officers usually will impound the vessel or immobilize it. The person can face a drug evaluation and treatment program. Community service requirements begin at 50 hours for the first refusal and increase for the second refusal. The individual can also be sentenced to probation. The judge involved in the case cannot accept a lesser offense when the BUI violation is serious.

Serious Implications in BUI Offenses in Florida

More serious BUI offenses occur when the boat driver has a BAC level of 0.15 or higher. In these cases, the case requires mandatory adjudication. The defendant cannot plea bargain to a lesser offense. Additionally, if the boat drier leaves the scene of the accident, he or she can face charges for a third-degree felony. The boater may face charges for a second-degree misdemeanor if there is property damage caused by the drunken boating. Second-degree

Contact a Lawyer for Help with Your BUI Case in Florida

When facing charges for a BUI, it is important to consult with a legal professional who is experienced in handling these types of cases. A BUI defense lawyer may examine the factors involved in the case, starting with the inspection of the boat. If there was another party involved such as the Coast Guard or federal agents, special rules may apply. A lawyer will need to thoroughly review the case materials to determine if there are any issues or necessary challenges to the evidence or witness statements that should be made. The driver will need to follow Florida state law and comply with guidelines involving the impound of the boat and the payment of fines to reclaim their boat.

Once the lawyer takes the case, the boat driver will need to ensure the legal professional is aware of all parties present, any witnesses in the area and if video or audio surveillance was present at the scene. Any additional factors that could complicate the case such as injury or death of passengers or others on the water will require a more aggressive defense in the courtroom. The lawyer will investigate the scene, assess the boat and review the paperwork submitted by the officer who conducted the initial investigation. He or she will need to interview all witnesses to acquire a clearer picture of what occurred. However, the lawyer will do what he or she can to protect the rights of the client and to present a valid argument and defensive strategy to refute the BUI charges. He or she may be able to enter into a plea bargain with the prosecutor that minimizes the potential penalties.

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