Boating Under The Influence

Boating Under the Influence

Fighting for Clients In Deland, Daytona Beach and Throughout Central Florida

For most Floridians, the beach is just one of many perks to living in the Sunshine State. Thinking about summers in Florida can conjure up images of the ocean, beaches, and a couple of ice cold beers. But, it doesn’t take much for this happy picture to turn into something far less enjoyable. Boating Under the Influence, like Driving Under the Influence, is a crime in the State of Florida. A conviction for BUI can have serious repercussions for your employment, home and family life, and can be costly. In Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach, and the surrounding beach areas, officers patrol the waters looking for intoxicated boaters to arrest.

Have you been charged with a crime in Central Florida? With offices conveniently located in DeLand and Daytona Beach, our team can defend you against your criminal charges. 

Boating Under the Influence

In order to encourage boat operators to use designated drivers, the Florida Legislature categorizes Boating Under the Influence as a misdemeanor. In many ways, a BUI is similar to its cousin, the DUI. Just like a DUI, a BUI increases in penalties the more often you are convicted. Even a first time conviction of DUI can have serious penalties, including imprisonment, fines, and impoundment of your boat. 

To prove the crime of Boating Under the Influence, the State has to prove that you were under the influence of alcohol or a chemical or controlled substance to the extent that your normal facilities were impaired OR that you have a blood-alcohol level of at least .08 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, or more commonly, a breath-alcohol level of at least .08 grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath. Note that the State only has to prove one of these elements. Proving either impairment or BAC is enough to get a conviction. To prove impairment, the State can rely on a variety of factors, including, but not limited to: results of breath, blood, or urine tests, performance on field sobriety exercises, and observations made by officers while investigating the crime. Ever tried performing field sobriety exercises while standing on a boat? It’s not easy.

When faced with a potential BUI conviction, some people may be tempted to refuse to provide a breath sample or participate in field sobriety tests. Rather than saving you from conviction, refusals can be used as evidence of impairment by the State. Much like driving a car, when you decide to operate a boat or other water vessel, you agree to Implied Consent.

Implied Consent

Implied Consent is a policy that is outlined in Florida Statute 327.352. The statute essentially requires any person operating a vessel (including boats, jet skis, etc.) to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test and field sobriety exercises at the request of an officer if the officer believes that the person is impaired. Refusals to submit to these tests is admissible in any subsequent criminal proceedings.

This is very similar to the implied consent for driving a motor vehicle, but there is one key difference. If you refuse to submit to a breath test while driving your car, you will automatically have you license suspended for one year. That same refusal, but for a boat or water vessel, does not affect your driver’s license. Instead, you will be given a civil penalty of $500.00 if it is your first refusal; though a second refusal will result in a misdemeanor charge. It is also important to remember that these refusals overlap with DUIs, so if you previously refused to submit a breath test while driving your car, refusing while driving your boat will result in a misdemeanor.

Punishment(s) for BUI

Again, like a DUI, a BUI is an enhanceable offense. This means that the penalties increase the more often you committed the crime, or based on certain circumstances.

First Time BUI Offenses

  • Adjudication of Guilt.
  • Up to six (6) months in jail.
  • Up to one (1) year of probation.
  • A fine no less than $500.00, and no more than $1,000.00.
  • No less than fifty (50) hours of community service.
  • Ten (10) day impoundment of your vessel.
  • Must attend and complete a substance abuse course at your own expense.
  • Must refrain from using drugs and/or alcohol while on probation with random urinalysis.
  • Pay court costs, cost of prosecution, cost of investigation.

Second Time BUI Offenses

  • Adjudication of Guilt.
  • Up to (9) months in jail.
  • Up to one (1) year of probation.
  • A fine of not less than $1,000.00 and no more than $2,000.00.
  • No less than fifty (50) hours of community service.
  • Ten (10) day impoundment of your vessel.
  • Must attend and complete a substance abuse course at your own expense.
  • Must refrain from using drugs and/or alcohol while on probation with random urinalysis.
  • Pay court costs, cost of prosecution, cost of investigation.

Third Time BUI Offense Outside of Ten (10) Years

In addition to the above-listed statutory sanctions:

  • Punishable by up to twelve (12) months in jail.
  • A fine no less than $2,000.00 and not more than $5,000.00.

Third Time BUI Offense Within Ten (10) Years

A third time BUI Offense within 10 years of a prior conviction is a third degree felony and subject to the following sanctions:

  • Punishable by up to five (5) years in prison.
  • A fine of up to $5,000.00.

Subsequent BUI Offenses

No matter how much time has passed since the prior conviction, a fourth or any subsequent arrest for BUI will be charged as a third degree felony. This is punishable by up to five (5) years in prison and up to a $5,000.00 fine.

BUI Offenses Causing Damage

If you get into an accident while boating under the influence, there are additional penalties.

  • Causing damage: First degree misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $1,000.00, one (1) year in jail, and one (1) year of probation.
  • Causing serious injury: Third degree felony, punishable by a fine up to $5,000.00, five (5) years in prison, and five (5) years of probation.
  • Causing death: Either a second degree or first degree felony, punishable by up to thirty (30) years in prison.

.15 Blood Alcohol Level or Accompanied by a Minor Enhancements

If arrested for BUI and your BAC is at or above a 0.15, or if you commit a BUI while someone under the age of 18 is in your vessel, the penalty increases.

  • First offense: punishable by a fine not less than $1,000.00 or more than $2,000.00 and up to nine (9) months in jail.
  • Second offense: punishable by a fine not less than $2,000.00 or more than $4,000.00 and up to twelve (12) months in jail.
  • Subsequent offense: punishable by a fine not less than $4,000.00 or more.

BUI Offenses for Defendant’s Under Twenty-One (21) Years Old

The blood alcohol level for someone who is arrested and suspected of drinking and boating is reduced from .08 to .02 when the driver is under the age of twenty-one.

Will getting a BUI affect by Driver’s License?

A BUI arrest or conviction does not affect your driver’s license. But don’t let this fool you into thinking that a conviction for a BUI is less serious than a DUI. The penalties are just as harsh, and you can still be facing jail time and thousands of dollars in fines. In addition, prior convictions of BUI are also counted when dealing with a DUI, and vice versa. In other words, if you have a prior conviction for a BUI and are then arrested for your first DUI, the court will treat that DUI as a second offense because of the prior BUI conviction, which can result in your driver’s license getting suspended for an even longer period of time.


With Matt Thompson as your attorney, you can feel confident that your case is being handled by someone who is experienced, knowledgeable, and aggressive when it comes to defending your case. As a former prosecutor, Attorney Thompson has handled numerous cases involving alcohol and other substances, including crimes of BUI and DUI. As a criminal defense attorney, he has carried over his knowledge from being a prosecutor and knows how to argue your case with the State. Thompson Law, P.A. purposefully keeps a small case load so that we can give your legal matter the personalized and individual attention that it needs. The first thing Attorney Thompson will do is sit down with you and get your account of the incident, and will work with you to create the best defense for your case.

Matt Thompson has experience prosecuting and defending charges of Boating Under the Influence. Call us today for your free case evaluation at (386) 280-4977.

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