Articles Posted in Boating Under the Influence (BUI)

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In Florida, most alcohol related criminal cases are DUI cases, however it is not uncommon for us to see boating under the influence, or BUI, cases as well. There are some similarities between DUI and BUI cases as well as certain differences. As to the similarities, it is illegal to drive a boat while impaired, and the police will try and get the boat driver to submit to field sobriety exercises and a breathalyzer test just as with a DUI. Additionally, the penalties for BUI and DUI cases are similar.

There are also some key differences. Some of the observations the law enforcement officers make trying to prove impairment are obviously different when a person is on a boat versus in a vehicle. Additionally, it is not illegal to drink alcohol on a boat, while it is illegal for any occupant to have an open container of alcohol in a vehicle on the road.

In a recent case near Jacksonville, Florida, a Fish and Wildlife Department officer observed the defendant violating the wake free zone with his boat. He asked the defendant to pull his boat over to the officer’s boat. The defendant was able to maneuver his boat over to the officer’s boat. The officer then conducted a safety inspection which required the defendant to retrieve certain items such as a life vest, boat registration and other items required to be on the boat. The defendant had to balance himself while obtaining these items. The officer then indicated that he noticed an odor of alcohol coming from the defendant and saw two empty beer cans in the boat. Based on these observations, the officer requested the defendant submit to field sobriety tests and the breathalyzer test. Once those were completed, the officer arrested him for BUI.

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A man in St. Johns County, Florida was arrested for boating under the influence of alcohol, or BUI, after he was stopped for a fishing license check and the officer suspected that he was intoxicated, according to an article on News4Jax.com. During the summer months in the Jacksonville and St. Augustine, Florida areas, we see an increase in BUI cases to go along with the increased number of people boating and fishing in the local waters. Some people may think that a BUI charge is not very serious, but the laws relating to BUI can make that criminal charge as serious as the laws relating to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or DUI.

There are, however, differences in how a BUI case is prosecuted and how it is defended by a criminal defense lawyer. The issues related to when an officer is permitted to stop a boater are different as are the issues related to the officer’s determination as to whether the boater is actually impaired. If you have been arrested for boating under the influence of alcohol (BUI), it is a serious charge, but there are defenses. If you have any questions about a BUI charge, feel free to call us for a free consultation.

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Florida leads the country in the number of boating deaths after that number increased by 10% in the last year. As a result, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) has asked Florida lawmakers to pass a law mandating education courses for all boaters. Currently, only boaters under the age of 21 must take mandatory boater education courses.

The Florida FWC is also asking Florida lawmakers to increase penalties for drunken boating, aka boating under the influence or BUI, to make those laws more consistent with DUI laws in Florida. At the next meeting in September, the FWC plans to discuss a proposal that would be submitted to the Florida legislature requesting the change in boating under the influence penalties. However, keep in mind that current BUI penalties carry significant penalties similar to the Florida DUI laws. Additionally, the boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs law pays special attention to offenders under 21 years of age. It is specifically against the law for anyone under 21 to operate a boat with any measurable blood or breath alcohol level, i.e. .02 or higher (the legal limit for people over 21 is .08). Penalties for this crime include community service, a mandatory boater education course and the temporary loss of the privilege to operate a boat.

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In Duval County (Jacksonville), Florida, there are over 34,000 boats registered. As we approach the Summer months, boating becomes increasingly popular, and the Jacksonville area water ways become more crowded. As a result, boating under the influence of alcohol (BUI) arrests also increase this time of year.

In the Jacksonville, Florida area, there are law enforcement officials, such as the Florida Wildlife Commission, who patrol the water ways in Duval County, Clay County, Nassau County and all of Northeast Florida just like police officers and troopers patrol the roads. And also like police officers on the road, law enforcement officials on the water must have a valid reason to stop a boat. A boat can be stopped based upon probable cause which can arise if a boat is speeding or in violation of the various regulations that apply to boats. A boat can also be stopped for a random inspection related to fishing, equipment, registration or safety.

If an officer suspects that a boat driver is operating the boat under the influence of alcohol, the officer may request a field sobriety test. The field sobriety test is different from the one performed on a vehicle driver. Part of the test can be done on the boat on the water such as the alphabet, horizontal gaze and finger counting. However, other parts of the test should be done on land, such as standing on one leg, placing the finger on the nose and walking a straight line and turning. But there are other factors to consider in the boating context. A boater should be given a period of time after getting off of the boat to acclimate him/herself to land after spending time on the water. Also, these tests are often more difficult if the person is barefoot or in flip flops as supposed to regular, more stable shoes. At some point, in deciding whether to make an arrest for BUI or after a BUI arrest, the officer will make a note of and/or take pictures of any alcohol or alcohol containers in the boat.