Boating Under The Influence And How These Charges Are Similar To DUI
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It’s summertime, so many people will be out on the water enjoying the sun and waves. But before you head to the nearest marina, it’s essential to be aware of the dangers of boating under the influence (BUI). Just like driving while intoxicated is illegal, so is operating a boat while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
So what exactly constitutes a BUI? And how are these charges similar to DUI? Let’s take a closer look.
Boating Under Influence
Florida law prohibits boating under the influence. According to the Florida Statutes, boating under the influence occurs when someone operates a motor vehicle while being under the influence of alcoholic beverages, chemical substances, or controlled substances. You can be charged with a BUI if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or breath alcohol level (BAL) is .08% or higher.
In general, a BUI charge can be based on any of the following:
- Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit
- Visible signs of impairment, such as slurred speech or erratic behavior
- Admission of drinking or using drugs
- Poor performance on field sobriety tests
- The smell of alcohol or drugs
This applies to any vessel that is operated on waterways, such as motorboats, sailboats, jet skis, pontoon boats, canoes, and kayaks.
How Drinking Affects Your Ability to Operate a Boat
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been drinking beer, wine, or hard liquor — alcohol will impair your judgment and motor skills. And this can be dangerous when operating a boat. Alcohol slows down your reaction time and makes it difficult to think clearly. It also dehydrates your body, making you feel tired and dizzy. This can make it even harder to operate a boat safely. It can lead to accidents, such as hitting another boat or running aground. A boat operator with a blood alcohol level over .10% is thought to have a death rate from a boating accident that is more than ten times higher than that of a boat operator who has not been drinking.
How to Avoid Getting BUI Charges
The best way to avoid getting charged with a BUI is to not drink or use drugs before operating a boat. But if you do plan on drinking, there are some steps you can take to minimize your risk.
- Designate a sober captain. Before leaving shore, designate someone who will stay sober and be in charge of operating the boat.
- Avoid mixing alcohol with sun exposure and swimming. It’s important to drink plenty of water and take breaks in the shade if you’re drinking while in the water because alcohol can intensify the effects of heat and sun exposure.
- Don’t drink too much too fast. Sipping alcohol slowly will help you avoid getting drunk quickly. And be sure to eat food so you have something in your stomach to help slow down the absorption of alcohol.
- Know your limit. Everyone metabolizes alcohol differently, so knowing how much you can drink before feeling impaired is important.
- Wear a life jacket. Wearing a life jacket while boating is always a good idea, but it’s absolutely necessary if you’ve had any alcohol.
What to Do if You’re Stopped for BUI
This might happen even if you take all the precautions in the world. You could still get pulled over for suspicion of BUI. Here is some advice on what to do in this situation:
- Remain calm and be polite. Getting pulled over can be stressful, but it’s important to remain calm and be respectful to the officer.
- Don’t admit to anything. You might think it’s helpful to tell the officer that you only had a few drinks, but anything you say can and will be used against you.
- Ask for a lawyer. You have the right to remain silent and to have an attorney present during any questioning.
- Take a breath test if required by law. In some states, you may be required to submit to a chemical test of your breath, blood, or urine if you’re arrested for BUI.
Similarities Between DUI and BUI
Obviously, there are some major differences between driving under the influence (DUI) and boating under the influence (BUI). But there are also some similarities.
The most significant similarity is that both DUI and BUI charges are based on impairment. Whether it’s your blood alcohol concentration or your ability to operate the boat safely, prosecutors must show that you were impaired in some way to convict you.
Jail time. The amount of time you could spend in jail will depend on the severity of the offense and whether you have any prior convictions. In Florida, you can face jail time of up to 6 months for your first offense, and up to 9 months for your second offense.
Fines. These can range from as little as a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. In Florida, you can face between $500 to $2,000 depending on the circumstances of your offense.
License suspension. One of the most common penalties for DUI is a suspension of your driver’s license. This can also be a penalty for BUI, as your boating privileges may be suspended if you’re convicted.
The stop was illegal: If the police officer didn’t have a valid reason for stopping you, then any evidence they gathered after the stop may not be admissible in court.
The breath test was inaccurate: Breath tests can be inaccurate for several reasons, such as if the machine wasn’t calibrated properly or if you have a medical condition that affects your breath test results.
Miranda rights were violated: If the police didn’t read you your Miranda rights, anything you said after being arrested may not be used against you in court.
You weren’t actually impaired: Just because you had a drink doesn’t mean you were automatically impaired. The prosecution must prove that drinking actually compromised your ability to operate the boat.
Ask For Help
If you have been charged with BUI, it’s important to talk to an experienced attorney who can help you understand the specific laws in your state and build a strong defense. They can also help you negotiate with prosecutors for a lighter sentence or dismissed charges.
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