Fighting a Boat DUI/“BUI”

  • Sep 7 2018

Florida’s sunshine, warm weather, and easy access to water make boating an incredibly popular activity in Miami. It’s natural and common to want to have an adult beverage while you’re enjoying the open water, but Florida has strict penalties for boat DUIs (BUIs). Here’s what you need to know about boat DUI and how to fight Miami BUI charges.

When Can I Be Charged With Boat DUI?

You can be charged with BUI under any circumstance you can normally be charged with DUI, when the vehicle you operate is a boat. Florida law says you are driving under the influence (DUI) if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08 or higher, or if your normal faculties are impaired while you are in actual physical control of a vehicle. You can also be charged with a Miami DUI/BUI even if your BAC is below the legal limit if law enforcement observes things about your appearance or behavior that suggest you are under the influence, detect the odor of alcohol or marijuana, or find an open container in your boat.  

What Kinds of Vehicles Count as Boats?

Florida drinking and boating laws apply to larger boats like yachts as well as smaller motorized watercraft like jet skis, and smaller non-motorized watercraft like inner tubes, inflatable rafts, rowboats and canoes. Essentially, if you can float on it, you can almost certainly be charged with Miami boat DUI.

Who’s in charge here?

Unlike on dry land where there is only one driver, boats are often operated by more than one individual. You should be aware that law enforcement considers anyone who plays a role in safely navigating the vessel vulnerable to BUI charges. This means that the person working the rudder or throttle, or the person acting as a lookout can be held liable if he or she is not sober while performing the task.

What are the sobriety exercises administered for those suspected of BUI?

Under the rules of the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), if you are suspected of controlling a boat under the influence, Coast Guard or Marine Patrol officers have the right to administer various sobriety tests known as the “Afloat Test Battery.” Typical components of this battery of exercises are recitation of the alphabet, finger counts, palm pats, and finger to nose movements.

How reliable is the “Afloat Test Battery”?

Since sobriety exercises are supposed to be administered on a dry, flat surface, and this type of surface is almost impossible to find when you’re on the water, seated exercises are substituted for standing ones when evaluating an individual for BUI. Nonetheless, any tests administered on the water are questionable at best, given the constant motion of the water. For this reason, Coast Guard officers may wait to administer such tests on land, or repeat them once the defendant has come ashore.

What Are Penalties for a Florida BUI?

In Florida, operating a boat under the influence carries the same penalties as driving a car under the influence. For starters, if your BAC is .08 or higher, or if you fail to provide a breath sample when requested to do so by law enforcement, you face an immediate suspension of your driver’s license for 90 days (though you have 10 days to request a formal review hearing in which the suspension is paused).. You may also be looking at the installation of an ignition interlock on your boat, along with mandatory alcohol assessment and counseling.  

You also face other significant penalties if convicted, like a permanent criminal record, a minimum fine of $1,000, and jail time. Your insurance rates will likely also increase significantly. If you have previously been convicted of a Miami boat DUI, your penalties will usually be more severe with each subsequent conviction.

How can I defend against boat DUI (BUI) charges?

If you are charged with boat DUI (BUI), you need to contact an experienced Miami DUI and BUI attorney immediately. Our attorneys at Valiente, Carollo and McElligott PLLC have experience defending Miami clients against criminal boating DUI (BUI) charges. We will analyze the facts of your particular situation, and look for evidence suggesting that your blood alcohol or breathalyzer test were not properly administered or that the results were tainted. We will also look for evidence suggesting that any allegedly incriminating evidence was illegally seized, or that allegedly incriminating statements you made were illegally obtained by Miami law enforcement.

Charged with a boat DUI (BUI)? A Miami DUI Defense Attorney Can Help

The penalties for a boat DUI can be significant, expensive, and long-lasting. If you have been charged with Miami boat DUI, you owe it to yourself and your future to contact an experienced Miami criminal defense attorney immediately. At Valiente, Carollo and McElligott PLLC, we believe everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and will aggressively defend you to the fullest extent of the law. Contact our office today.

Posted in: DUI