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Boating under the influence in Florida: What to know

On Behalf of | Jul 17, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

There’s nothing more relaxing than taking your boat out on the water so you can spend the whole day kicking back – but you’ll want to be careful just how heavily you indulge as you’re relaxing.

Just like driving a car, boating under the influence (BUI) of alcohol or drugs is illegal, and the authorities are serious about enforcement.

When can you be arrested for BUI?

Under Florida Statute Section 327.35, a BUI arrest can occur when either your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08% or higher or the authorities suspect that you are impaired due to alcohol or drugs (or some combo of the two) based on your behavior. In addition, you can be arrested if you have a BAC of .05% or higher and the officer has other evidence that points to your impairment.

This means, for example, that if you’re caught up in a BUI sweep by the Coast Guard or local authorities, you can expect the authorities to look beyond your BAC score and at things like:

  • Your overall demeanor, including how cooperative you are
  • Whether there are obvious signs of drinking (like lots of “empties” around)
  • Whether you seem physically in control of yourself or are stumbling
  • How easily you respond to questions or are able to articulate your thoughts
  • Whether you are red-faced and have bloodshot eyes
  • Any obvious odor of alcohol on your body or breath

If you’re charged with BUI and you’re convicted, the penalties are serious. Even for a first-time offense, you face the potential of a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail (among other penalties). The penalties increase if you’ve caused an accident that causes serious injuries to another person or your BAC was higher than .15% and for subsequent offenses.

Because of the potential consequences of a conviction, it’s incredibly important to explore all your defense options. For example, a lack of probable cause to stop your boat for a BUI check or a poorly administered BAC test can be avenues that may lead to an acquittal. Seeking legal guidance is a good way to start building the strongest possible defense under the circumstances.


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