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Boating under the influence (BUI)

Boating while impaired is a serious offense. Florida has some of the strictest boating under the influence (BUI) laws in the nation, and some of the strongest enforcement.

If you have recently been issued a BUI citation, the process for fighting it is very similar to a driving under the influence (DUI). The consequences are not as severe, but you don't want this on your record as a prior conviction. It is important to fight a BUI just like a DUI for that reason.

A serious problem

The Coast Guard blames alcohol as the leading cause of fatalities on the water. It's also been the cause of some high-profile boating accidents here in Palm Beach County. But there are complicated issues raised by the nature of boating which make BUI a very different issue.

For one thing, there is not license required to operate a boat. That means that even with a BUI there is nothing to suspend. Enforcement is up to local authorities, but their presence off the coast is not as strong as it is on the roads. However, it is much easier for them to stop you for a random check.

What the law says

Under Florida law, a first offense BUI can result in a fine of up to $1,000, six months in jail, and the loss of your boat for 10 days. A second offense the penalty is up to $2,000, nine months in jail, and at least 10 days in jail if it was within five years of the first conviction.

BUI is defined the same as DUI, which is a blood alcohol of 0.08 or higher.

These penalties are nowhere near as harsh as a DUI, so many people who have been issued a BUI citation do not fight it. It simply does not seem to be worth the trouble. But that can be a serious mistake.

Setting up a first offense

Any BUI conviction counts as a prior offense if you are later pulled over for a much more severe DUI. For this reason, it is much more important to fight a BUI than most people realize. You should always fight a BUI any way you can.

That is why an experienced criminal defense attorney is vital if you have been cited for BUI. If nothing else, it is important that you understand your rights and the procedures. It may look like it is not a big deal on the surface, but you do not want that conviction on your record.

If you have been charged with BUI, seek council immediately.

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