Florida has the second-longest coastline in the United States, and Palm Beach County features a number of locations for people to take boats out on the water. Many people partake in alcoholic beverages while spending time on vessels, but a boat operator can be arrested for boating under the influence (BUI) if a police officer believes he or she is intoxicated.
BUI arrests are taken just as seriously as driving under the influence (DUI) crimes, and people can face possible incarceration and fines if convicted of these offenses. Penalties can be enhanced in these cases for certain aggravating factors such as prior convictions or high blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) levels.
If you were arrested for BUI in the greater Palm Beach County area, it is in your best interest to avoid saying anything to authorities until you have legal representation. Meltzer & Bell, P.A. defends clients in communities throughout Palm Beach County, Broward County, and Miami-Dade County.
Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers will work tirelessly to help you achieve the most favorable outcome to your case that results in the fewest consequences. You can have our attorneys review your case and help you understand all of your legal options when you call (561) 557-8686 to receive a free, confidential consultation.
A person can be arrested for BUI under Florida Statute § 327.35 if he or she has a blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher, or a police officer believes the alleged offender is under the influence of alcoholic beverages or a controlled substance and is affected to the extent that his or her normal facilities are impaired. The statute establishes the following penalties for BUI convictions:
Additionally, Florida Statute § 327.35(3) provides that a person who violates the Florida BUI law and, by reason of that operation, causes or contributes to causing damage to the property or person of another commits a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail. The criminal charge becomes a third-degree felony if the accident causes serious bodily injury, and an accident resulting in death will be a second-degree felony punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 15 years in prison—although that crime can become a first-degree felony punishable by fine of up to $10,000 and up to 30 years in prison if the alleged offender knew, or should have known, that the accident occurred, and failed to give information and render aid as required by Florida Statute § 327.30.
Florida Statute § 327.35(4) further states that any person convicted of BUI who had a BAC of 0.15 or higher, or any person convicted of BUI who at the time of the offense was accompanied in the vessel by a person under the age of 18 years will be punished as follows:
BUI cases share certain similarities to DUI crimes in that both types of offenses involve allegations about intoxication, but there are also important distinctions between the two. Unlike DUI cases in which it can be easy for police officers to identify the operators of motor vehicles, determining who was operating boats can be far trickier. The Florida Legislature has amended state law such that the term “operate” is no longer strictly confined to steering a vessel.
Another major difference between BUI and DUI concerns a person’s refusal to submit to chemical testing. Whereas a person who refuses to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test for a DUI stop will automatically have his or her driver’s license suspended, a person that refuses a test relating to a suspected BUI, the penalty for a first refusal is a $500 fine and second and subsequent refusals are subject to the same punishments as repeat DUI test refusals.
Police officers also have to use different field sobriety tests for boaters because of the different circumstances under which most tests are conducted. Additionally, Florida Statute § 327.35(6)(a) requires a court to order a person to participate in public service or a community work project for a minimum of 50 hours. Community service orders are at a court’s discretion in DUI cases.
Kelly Johnson Act — In 1998, the Florida Legislature enacted changes to the definition of the term “operate” in Florida Statute § 327.02(33) with this act named after a teenage girl killed in a boating accident on the St. John's River in February 1997. In that case, the man operating the boat was drunk, but he was not able to be prosecuted for BUI because he had stepped away from the wheel when the accident occurred. The Johnson Act changed the definition of “operate” from “to be in actual physical control of a vessel upon the waters of this state, or to exercise control over or steer a vessel being towed by another vessel upon the waters of the state” to “to be in charge of or in command of or in actual physical control of a vessel upon the waters of this state, or to exercise control over or to have responsibility for a vessel's navigation or safety while the vessel is underway upon the waters of this state, or to control or steer a vessel being towed by another vessel upon the waters of the state.”
Florida Statute § 327.35 — View the full text of the state BUI law. Learn more about the specific penalties for certain violations. The statute notes that it was the legislature’s intent to encourage boaters to have a “designated driver” who does not consume alcoholic beverages.
Were you recently arrested for BUI in South Florida? Do not make any statement to authorities until you are able to contact Meltzer & Bell, P.A..
Our criminal defense attorneys in Fort Lauderdale represent individuals in communities all over the Palm Beach County area, including Lake Worth, Palm Beach Gardens, Riviera Beach, Royal Palm Beach, Wellington, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Greenacres, Jupiter, and many others. Call (561) 557-8686 or submit an online contact form to have our lawyers provide a complete evaluation of your case during a free initial consultation.
No Points No School No Court Or your money back*
* Some restrictions apply. Non-Criminal infractions only. Court costs additional, if any. Call for more information.
...A long weekend vacation in Palm Beach resulted in the potential for serious consequences that could have set me back in unimaginative ways. M+B was a truly incredible legal advocate and was always accessible within minutes to answer questions and discuss the progress of the case within the system - truly remarkable. I could not have retained better legal representation in my case in Palm Beach County.
I just had to commend you on the outstanding job you did on behalf of your client in court yesterday. If my clients were ever to ask me if I know of a good DUI defense attorney, I know to whom I can refer them!
I was facing hard prison time and punishment. [Larry] did everything to pull strings and get me into rehab. After meeting with many therapists I finally got one to diagnose me successfully with Bipolar. Thanks to Larry I have been sober since 6/19/09. My health is great and my family life is amazing. It's because he saw something in me and my family that I wasn't just an alcoholic there was something that told me it was something else.
I was charged with a felony and facing the scary thought of losing my job, but thank you Attorney Steven Bell for helping me. Now I’m able to keep my job and take care of my family. I am truly amazed by your service, and you for understanding what I have to deal with. To me I’m very impressed by way you handled my case and was here to listen and make things OK!
Mr. Steven Bell, Words cant explain how thankful I am for you and your firm. I was facing felony charges and even looking at doing 5 years in jail! Not only did you fight for me, you got my case dismissed and dropped. For that, I don't have words to say “thank you” you were always kind and believed in me. You looked for every opportunity and you won! Thank you for being my guardian angel in disguise and steering me in the right direction. You are forever my “too go guy” thank you soooo much!