Weekend and Holiday Revelers Beware – BUI Needs to be Taken Seriously
As Labor Day weekend has just passed, pleasure boaters here in South Florida should be aware of the strict consequences of boating under the influence (BUI). Unfortunately, Florida routinely leads the nation in yearly boating deaths. Of those deaths, nearly one-third involved alcohol.
Unlike in motor vehicles, it is not illegal to consume alcohol while operating a boat. However, similar to motor vehicles, it is illegal to have a blood alcohol level of0.08 or higher, or under the influence to the extent that one’s normal faculties are impaired. Likewise, the threshold for a law enforcement official to stop a boat is far less than that in a motor vehicle. Florida law enforcement officials (e.g., Coast Guard, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, sheriff’s deputies of the various counties in Florida, and any other authorized enforcement officer) may pull over a vessel under a routine equipment check, whereas in a car there must be reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle.
Penalties for a BUI range in their severity based on varying factors. Past BUI, DUI or DWI charges may enhance penalties that can include:
- Fine of not less than $250 and no more than $500 (may extend up to $2,500 if there are prior alcohol related convictions).
- Imprisonment of not more than 6 months for a first conviction and up to 5 years if prior alcohol related convictions.
If property damage and/or personal injuries, or death are involved in the BUI charge, the authorities are able to expand on charges to a felony.
Boating in South Florida is and should continue to be a pleasant experience. Alcohol may be part of that experience, up to a certain point. If consuming alcohol is part of your weekend/holiday boating plans, be careful and pay attention to how much you are consuming, and how it is affecting you. Better yet, select a designated driver and have a great time!