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Boating Under the Influence

A charge of boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs carries severe penalties similar to those resulting from a DUI conviction for driving a car or truck under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You can be charged if you test above .08 on a blood-alcohol or breath-alcohol test, or if a law enforcement officer claims you are impaired by drugs or alcohol even if you are under the .08 BAC limit.

You face enhanced penalties for any prior BUI or DUI conviction, as well as enhanced penalties for other circumstances such as a minor on board the boat, testing at .15 or above on a BAC test, or causing property damage or personal injury.

Gainesville Boating Under the Influence Defense Lawyer

Facing your boating under the influence charge in Florida can be an overwhelming, distressing experience. The qualified BUI defense lawyers of the Galigani Law Firm in Gainesville have roughly 50 years of combined legal experience and know what it takes to expose any weak links in the prosecution's case in order to help your situation. Dean Galigani is Board Certified for professionalism and expertise in Criminal Trial Law and is experienced in all areas of criminal defense, including BUI.

If you have been arrested for boating under the influence in Newman's Lake, Lake Alto, Daughtry Bayou, Lake Lochloosa, Orange Lake, the IchetuckneeRiver, the Santa Fe River, or anywhere else in the Gainesville area, put the years of experience and criminal defense specialization of the Galigani Law Firm behind your case. Your first consultation concerning your Gainesville area BUI case with the Galigani Law Firm is free, so call (352) 375-0812 today to schedule yours.


Info on Florida BUI Charges


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Florida Boating Under the Influence in Alachua County Defined

In Florida, you can be arrested for BUI under two different circumstances:

  • if you are in actual physical control of a vessel with your normal faculties impaired by alcohol or controlled substances such as marijuana, prescription drugs, or cocaine, or
  • if you are in actual physical control of a vessel and have a blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or above, which is known as a "per se" BUI.

Actual physical control of a vessel does include sitting in the operator's seat with the engine on; however, you can also be considered in actual physical control of a vessel under other circumstances as well. Many factors contribute to determining whether you were in actual physical control of a vessel, such as your location on the boat and whether you had ignition keys in your possession or on your person.
"Normal faculties" are defined by Fla. Stat. § 316.1934 as including the ability to see, hear, talk, walk, make judgments, and normally perform general mental and physical activities of daily life. If you lack full possession of normal faculties, you are considered impaired.

It is, therefore, possible to be charged with boating under the influence under Florida law in Alachua County or the surrounding area if a law enforcement officer claims your faculties are impaired even if you did not take any drugs other than your normal prescriptions, or if you were sitting on a boat with the engine off. No matter the circumstances surrounding your boating under the influence charge, the advice of an experienced boating under the influence defense lawyer serving the Gainesville area is highly recommended.


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Penalties for Boating Under the influence in Florida

The penalties that come with a conviction for a boating under the influence in Florida are similar to those for a conviction of DUI involving a motor vehicle on the road, which are severe and can differ based on the circumstances of your particular case. By law in Fla. Stat. § 327.35, a first conviction for boating under the influence results in:

  • Up to six months in jail
  • $500-$1,000 fine
  • 50 hours of community service
  • Immobilization or impoundment of your vessel for 10 days, which may not be served concurrently with incarceration
  • Probation
  • Mandatory substance abuse counseling, at your own expense

Like any conviction, a boating under the influence conviction will give you a criminal record, and you will be required to disclose this conviction on most Florida job applications. It can, therefore, affect your future educational and professional opportunities. A conviction of BUI will also mean that any future DUI charge in Florida, and possibly other states, will be charged as a “second” DUI even if it is your first arrest for DUI.

You may also face a fine for refusing to take a blood, breath-alcohol, or urine test. Fla. Stat. § 327.352 allows law enforcement to demand a breath or urine test following any arrest for BUI or similar alcohol-related offense. Unlike tests administered by law enforcement during traffic stops on the roadway, you will not face any loss of license for refusing the test if you are age 21 or older, however, you do face a fine of $500 for a first refusal of a test and additional penalties with a misdemeanor charge for subsequent refusals.

If a vessel owned by you was operated by someone else, you may still face impoundment of the vessel, but can challenge this in court with the assistance of an Alachua County area criminal defense lawyer.


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Enhanced Penalties for Prior Alcohol Offense Convictions

You face more severe penalties if you have previously been convicted of any similar drug or alcohol related boating or driving offenses in Florida or even other states, even if this is the first boating under the influence charge or first alcohol-related offense of any type you have been charged with in Florida. Under Florida Statute § 327.35(6), any previous BUI or DUI conviction in Florida and any previous conviction outside Florida for “driving under the influence,” “driving while intoxicated,” “driving with an unlawful blood-alcohol level,” “driving with an unlawful breath-alcohol level,” “driving while ability impaired by alcohol,” or any other similar alcohol-related or drug-related operating offense is considered a “previous conviction” that will increase penalties for a conviction of boating under the influence in Florida.

A “second” conviction for BUI, regardless of the circumstances of the prior conviction, will result in:

  • $1,000-$2,000 fine; and
  • Up to nine months in jail.

If the second conviction is within five years of a prior conviction, you face:

  • Mandatory minimum of ten days in jail; and
  • Impoundment or immobilization of the vessel for 30 days.

A third conviction within ten years of any prior BUI, DUI, or similar conviction, or a 4th or subsequent conviction, is a third-degree felony, and will result in:

  • Up to $5,000 fine, with a mandatory minimum of $2,000 for a 4th or subsequent conviction;
  • Up to five years in prison, with a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days; and
  • Impoundment or immobilization of the vessel for 90 days.

A third conviction when it has been more than ten years since any prior BUI, DUI, or similar conviction will result in:

  • $2,000-$5000 fine; and
  • Up to a year in jail.

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Other Enhanced Penalties for Florida Boating Under the Influence

Certain circumstances are considered aggravating circumstances for any alcohol or drug-related operating offense. If you were accompanied by a minor in the commission of your BUI offense, or your blood-alcohol or breath-alcohol level is .15 or higher, you will face:

  • Up to nine months in jail and $1,000-$2,000 fine for a first conviction
  • Up to a year in jail and $2,000-$4,000 fine for a second conviction
  • Mandatory minimum $4,000 fine for a third or subsequent conviction

If you are under the age of 21, Fla. Stat. § 327.355 lowers the threshold to a blood or breath-alcohol limit of 0.02. If a person under the age of 21 refuses a breath-alcohol test or tests over the .02 limit, you will be forced to perform 50 hours of public service before you are allowed to operate a vessel in Florida again, in addition to a fine and a mandatory boating safety class at your own expense.

You face even more severe penalties if you are accused of causing or even contributing to cause property damage, injury, or death.


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Defenses to a Boating Under the Influence Charge

Some defenses may be available to fight a charge of boating under the influence. For example, if law enforcement does not properly obtain a test showing your breath or blood-alcohol level to be above .08, the prosecution must prove that your faculties were actually “impaired” and not merely “weakened.” Simply having some amount of drugs or alcohol in your system may not be sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were “impaired” or "under the influence" of the drug or alcohol.

Behaviors that law enforcement claims to be evidence of “impairment” may actually have another cause, such as dehydration, wind, engine noise and vibrations, or sea sickness. For example, red eyes, difficulty walking or standing steady, or being lightheaded may be the normal results of a day out on the water in the sun rather than the result of alcohol consumption or drug use. What law enforcement claims to be “erratic” operation of the boat may be due to lack of experience operating a boat, weather conditions or avoiding other boats rather than alcohol consumption or drug use.

Law enforcement may have conducted an illegal stop, in which case information collected during the illegal stop is not admissible in court against you. Unfortunately, law enforcement is allowed to stop and board boats under the pretense of checking to enforce registration, safety rules, or fishing laws; and may use these stops to gather information to use in a prosecution of BUI.
An experienced boating under the influence defense lawyer serving the Gainesville area can help you fight against these charges and any enhanced penalties following an arrest for boating under the influence in or near Alachua County.


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Locations Patrolled by Law Enforcement for Boating Under the Influence Arrests

Many popular boating locations near Gainesville are patrolled by law enforcement looking to make boating under the influence arrests, including:

  • Lake Alto;
  • Newman's Lake;
  • Near Cedar Key;
  • Daughtry Bayou;
  • The Lewis Pass area;
  • Lake Lochloosa;
  • Orange Lake;
  • Ichetucknee River; and
  • Santa Fe River.

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Galigani Law Firm | A BUI Attorney near Alachua County, Florida

If you have been arrested for BUI in Alachua County or the surrounding areas, including Lake Alto, Newman's Lake, Daughtry Bayou, Lake Lochloosa, Orange Lake, the IchetuckneeRiver, or the Santa Fe River, contact the experienced BUI defense lawyers of the Galigani Law Firm. They will do whatever it takes to fight for a favorable outcome to your Gainesville area boating under the influence case. To schedule your free initial BUI case consultation with the Galigani Law Firm, call (352) 375-0812 today.