Boating Under The Influence Charges Don’t Always Depend On Your BAC

  • Aug 19 2020

Cracking open a cold frosty seems like the natural thing to do when you are relaxing on the water, but it could lead to a charge of boating under the influence. Since Miami-Dade County is home to the most watercraft in the state of Florida, it is no surprise that a large number of residents and vacationers in our area face boating under the influence (BUI) charges each year. 

.08 Or Less? 

Most drivers know that .08 is the legal limit if you plan to get behind the wheel. But in Florida, you can also be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) if your BAC is below the legal limit if the police determine you are impaired. They do this by making observations about your appearance or behavior; detecting the odor of alcohol or marijuana; or finding an open container in your vehicle. 

The same rules apply on the water. You will be presumed to be under the influence if your blood- or breath-alcohol level is at or above .08. But you can also get charged with BUI even if you are well under the .08 limit if you seem impaired. This is tricky because the sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion —“stressors” common to the boating environment— can intensify the effects of alcohol, making even sober people act impaired. 

Inexperienced boaters are also at risk of appearing impaired. Boats are less responsive than cars, so those steering them may inadvertently run into another boat, a stationary object, or even a swimmer. If you’ve had even a sip of alcohol, the cops may charge you with BUI after such an accident just to make a point. 

Even Passengers Can Be Charged With BUI

One big difference between DUIs and BUIs is that even passengers in a boat may be charged with a BUI. Law enforcement officers consider anyone who plays a role in safely navigating the vessel an operator. This means that the person working the rudder or throttle, or the person acting as a lookout can be ticketed if he or she is not sober while performing the task.

Yes, Your Inner Tube Is Technically A Boat 

Florida’s BUI law is very liberal in its definition of “boat.” You can get a BUI on a mega-yacht cruising the Intercoastal Waterway, or get ticketed for getting tipsy in an inner tube. Essentially anything that floats can be considered a boat under Florida’s BUI law, including jet skis, inflatable rafts, rowboats, and canoes. 

Keep Yourself Afloat With The Help Of An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a BUI here in the Miami area, you should contact the Valiente, Carollo and McElligott PLLC team as soon as possible. Our experienced attorneys will comb through the facts in your case, and look for evidence that can clear your name, or should be thrown out because it was improperly obtained. There may also be evidence that shows the police were not respecting your rights, and all the charges against you should be dropped. 

Posted in: BUI