Florida Boating Under the Influence

According to the most recent information from the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), Florida ranked number one for the State with the most recreational boat registrations.

It follows that Florida lawmakers have stringent protections in place for operating a boat. Boating under the influence is penalized in a similar fashion to driving under the influence. Studies have shown that approximately one-third of all recreational boating fatalities involve alcohol use.

Thus, the Florida Legislature enacted § 327.35(1) F.S., known as "Boating Under the Influence." Talking to an experienced criminal defense attorney about BUIs is of vital importance. A BUI conviction can count toward any subsequent DUI charge, criminal penalties, and other punishments.

Attorney for Boating Under the Influence in Fort Lauderdale, FL

Boating is one of Florida's most common recreational pastimes. People often forget that boats fall under the "motor vehicle" category and operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs is still subject to criminal consequences in Florida.

The attorneys at Bacchus & Navarro Law Group understand that being charged with a crime is stressful. Having a zealous and fierce attorney to advocate for your rights can help lessen that stress. If you have been charged with BUI in Broward County, Collier County, Hendry County, Palm Beach County, or Miami-Dade County, then call our office.

Our office is centrally located at 401 E. Las Olas Blvd. in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, just minutes from the Broward County Central Courthouse. If you have been arrested or are subject to investigative procedures in Miami, West Palm Beach, East Naples, or LaBelle, Florida, then contact our firm immediately.

Call (954) 500-5555 to schedule a free consultation.


Overview of Boating Under the Influence in Broward County


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Elements of Fla. Stat. § 327.35(1)

In Florida, being charged with boating under the influence means operating a boat, ship, or vessel while having a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher. To prove that an individual was in violation of F.S. § 327.35(1), the State of Florida must show, beyond a reasonable doubt, the following:

  • the defendant operated a vessel;
  • the defendant operated a vessel while either of the following:
    • the defendant was under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or a chemical substance to the extent that his or her normal faculties were impaired;
    • the defendant had a blood or breath alcohol level of .08 or more grams of alcohol.

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Enhanced BUI Penalties

Similar to DUI, the penalties for boating under the influence are enhanced when the defendant is convicted of a BUI, and the court also finds either of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • that the defendant had a blood alcohol level of .15 or higher while operating the boat or vessel; or
  • that the defendant was accompanied in the vessel by a minor at the time of boating under the influence.

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Boating under the Influence Causing Property Damage

Boating under the influence could cause a Florida boat operator, to be subject to BUI and property damage penalties.Florida has a separate statute for BUI that causes property damage. Under § 327.35(3)(a)(b)(c)(1) Fla. Stat., to convict an individual of BUI causing property damage, the State must show the following:

  • the defendant operated a vessel;
  • the defendant operated the vessel while either of the following:
    • the defendant was under the influence of alcohol or drugs; or
    • the defendant has a BUI .08 or more grams of alcohol; and
  • as a result of operating the vessel under the influence of alcohol, the defendant caused or contributed to, the damage to the victim's property, or injury to another person.

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Federal Boating under the Influence Charges

Operating a vessel on federal waterways could subject an individual to criminal charges if he or she is caught operating a boat while under the influence. In state waterways, there is concurrent jurisdiction. Concurrent jurisdiction means if a boater crosses over into U.S. territory, coast guard will request that the state police take him or her into custody.

To determine what operating a recreational vessel, "under the influence" means, the U.S. Coast Guard uses the State's established blood alcohol level for its determination. Therefore, if an individual is caught operating a boat under the influence along Florida State water boundaries, then the Coast Guard will use Florida's BAC level to determine if an individual is illegally intoxicated.


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Penalties for BUI Convictions in Florida

Similar to the penalties for DUI convictions, BUI convictions increase with the number of times an individual is convicted of BUI and also DUIs. The penalties for being convicted of boating under the influence in Florida are as follows:

  • First BUI Conviction
    • Fine – up to $500
    • Jail Time – up to six (6) months in jail.
  • Second BUI Conviction
    • Fine – up to $1,000
    • Jail Time – Up to nine (9) months in jail.
  • Third BUI Conviction (after ten years from previous)
    • Fine – up to $2,500
    • Jail Time – up to twelve (12) months in jail.

Felony BUIs

The convictions listed above are generally subject to misdemeanor charges. If an individual has three (3) or more BUIs within a ten-year (10) period, then he or she could be subject to felony consequences.

  • Third BUI (within ten (10) years)
  • Fine – up to $1,000
  • Jail Time - up to five (5) years in prison;
  • Third-degree felony.
  • Fourth or Subsequent BUI
  • Fine - up to $1,000
  • Jail Time – up to five (5) years in prison;
  • Third-degree felony.

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Additional Resources

327.35(1) Fla. Stats. – Visit Online Sunshine the official website of the Florida Legislature for the full statutory language concerning boating under the influence in Florida.

National Marine Manufacturers Association Boat Registration Statistical Report –Visit the official website of the NMMA and view the "preview report" of the 2016 U.S. Boat Registration Report for more information on boat registration across the United States. Also find more information about regulatory information concerning boat manufacturing, international reports and the economic impact that boat manufacturing has on the country.

Florida BUI and the FWC – Visit the official website of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for more information on boating safety and information on boating under the influence (BUI) in Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also provides information on state-specific boating safety information that must be incorporated into Florida boating safety courses such as vessel registration, boating accidents, reckless and careless boat operation, and vessel speed restrictions.


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Find an Attorney for BUI in Broward County, FL

To understand more about how you could be subject to criminal consequences in Florida for operating a boat under the influence, speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney at Bacchus & Navarro Law Group.

When you have an experienced advocator on your side, your rights are protected, and you can be certain that your attorney will fight the best possible result. If you have been charged with BUI in Broward County, Collier County, Hendry County, Palm Beach County, or Miami-Dade County, then call our office.

Our offices are centrally located at 401 E. Las Olas Blvd. in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, just minutes from the Broward County Central Courthouse. If you have been arrested or are subject to investigative procedures in Miami, West Palm Beach, East Naples, or LaBelle, Florida, then contact our firm immediately.

Call (954) 500-5555 to schedule a free consultation.

This article was last updated on April 15, 2017.


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