Miami BUI Attorney

Group of people drinking on boat, at risk of a BUI charge.

Florida’s expansive coastline and numerous waterways make boating a popular activity, especially if you are looking to have a good time. For many, this includes having a couple drinks while soaking up the sun. If you are one of these revelers, it is important to understand that Florida holds boaters and automobile drivers to similar standards when operating a vessel or vehicle under the influence. 

If you have been charged with boating under the influence (BUI), the experienced criminal attorneys at Valiente Law can help you navigate the criminal justice system. Representing clients in Miami and across South Florida, Valiente Law has a reputation for standing up for our clients’ rights and making sure they are treated fairly under the law. 

What is Boating Under the Influence (BUI)?

Boating under the influence of alcoholic beverages (BUI) is very similar to driving under the influence (DUI). A person is guilty of BUI if he or she is operating a vessel and the person is (1) impaired by alcohol or other substances; (2) has a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent or higher; or (3) has a breath-alcohol level of .08% or higher. 

A vessel refers to any type of boat or other watercraft used for transportation on water. 

Proving impairment does not require a blood or breath-alcohol level of .08 percent. Under Florida law, impairment occurs when a boater’s normal faculties are affected. This may be based on law enforcement’s observation of behavior and/or performance of a field sobriety test. 

Who is Responsible in the Case of a BUI?

Anyone operating a boat or vessel may be charged with a BUI. To operate a boat or vessel means to be in control of or navigate a boat while it is traveling on water. This means anyone who is impaired while navigating a boat can be charged with a BUI. In some cases, as with sailboats or other vessels requiring two or more people to operate, more than one person on a particular boat can be charged. 

Consent to Testing

The Florida legislature considers a license to operate a boat to be a privilege. In exchange for accepting this privilege, the legislature provides that anyone operating a boat is deemed to have consented to testing to determine alcohol levels in blood, breath, or urine. A blood test must be performed by a person licensed to draw blood, usually at a hospital, while a breath test can be performed by law enforcement officers at the time of arrest. 

The refusal to take a blood, breath, or urine test results in a fine of $500 on the first occasion. If a boater has previously received a fine for refusing to take a blood, breath, or urine test, any subsequent refusal is punishable as a misdemeanor.

You may request, at your own expense, to have a second, independent alcohol analysis performed. Additionally, if the arresting officer does not request a blood, breath, or urine test, you may ask that such a test be performed.

Penalties for BUI

Anyone convicted of BUI will be punished under Florida’s criminal code. For the first offense, punishment will be a fine of $500 and a term of prison of no more than six months. For a second offense, punishment will be a fine of between $1,000 and $2,000 and a term of prison of no more than nine months. 

For a third conviction in less than ten years, the crime is a felony of the third degree, punishable by a fine of $5,000 or less or no more than five years in prison. If a third conviction occurs more than ten years from the date of a prior conviction, punishment will be a fine of between $2,000 and $5,000 and a term of prison of no more than twelve months. 

A fourth or greater conviction is punishable as a felony in the third degree, resulting in a fine of $5,000 or less or no more than 5 years in prison. 

A conviction for BUI with a blood or breath-alcohol level of .15 or higher is an aggravating factor resulting in enhanced or more aggressive punishment. The enhancements include doubling the fines imposed and adding three months to the potential prison sentence.

Penalties if Under the Age of 21

If you are under the age of 21, you can be liable for a BUI if your blood or breath-alcohol level exceeded .02 percent. However, for those under 21, a BUI is a noncriminal infraction in most cases, although you could still be prosecuted if your blood or breath-alcohol level exceeded .08 percent. 

Penalties for a noncriminal BUI include a prohibition of operating a boat until the completion of fifty hours of community service and completing a boating safety course. 

Protect Yourself with an Experienced BUI Attorney

A conviction for BUI, like one for DUI, can carry consequences beyond jail time. The conviction can impact your career, raise your insurance rates, and goes on your permanent criminal record. If you have been charged with a BUI, speaking with an experienced criminal law attorney may improve the outcome in your case.

At Valiente Law, our attorneys have taken on hundreds of BUI and DUI cases and know the intimate details of the law. Upon meeting with you, our trial-tested attorneys will review your case and explain the potential outcomes. After looking at the facts of your case, we can determine whether to make challenges to the collection of the evidence against you or assert your rights against constitutional violations as fully understanding the facts of your case is the best way to mount a defense to your charges.

If you have questions or concerns about a recent BUI, Valiente Law is here to help. With the experience necessary to navigate the unique circumstances of your case, the attorneys at Valiente Law set out with one goal of achieving the best possible outcome for you. Contact Valiente Law to discuss your defense strategy today.