Tampa BUI Lawyer

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Tampa BUI Defense Attorney

In Florida, boat operators are subject to many rules and regulations similar to the operators of a car. This means that law enforcement can do things like pull your boat over and ask you to take a blood alcohol test while on the water. This can often happen unexpectedly, and there are numerous factors that could affect the outcome of the test and potential charges. If you need help fighting a BUI (boating under the influence) charge, contact a Tampa BUI lawyer today.

Tampa BUI Lawyer

Boating Under the Influence Defense in FL

An experienced criminal defense attorney can help make your life easier when fighting your BUI charge. Jeff Marshall has experience defending numerous clients in criminal defense, DUI, and drug possession cases. In many instances, he was able to recover a not-guilty verdict or reduce a potential felony to a misdemeanor to avoid excessive repercussions. Let the attorneys at Jeff Marshall Law provide a strategic plan to help with your case.

What Is Boating Under the Influence?

It is perfectly legal to have alcohol on a boat. Unlike in a car, having open containers of alcohol on a boat is legal. The people consuming the alcohol must be 21 or over. Even though alcohol is allowed on boats, the person or people operating the boat have specific rules about how much they can drink while on a boat.

Boating Under the Influence in Florida, or a BUI, is similar to a DUI in the sense that both address individuals who appear intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle. Both offenses are given when the driver tests above the legal alcohol limit, which is 0.08% BAC (blood alcohol content). However, the two offenses have different penalties depending on how many times the individual has committed the crime:

  • First Occurrence: Typically, a first-time BUI will be a second-degree misdemeanor and come with a $500 – $1,000 fine and up to 6 months of jail time. This offense also comes with other requirements like community service and impounding the boat the BUI was committed on for 10 days.
  • Second Occurrence: Similar to first occurrences, second occurrences are often second-degree misdemeanors, but the fines and jail time are increased. Second-time BUIs are subject to up to $1,000 – $2,000, as much as nine months in jail, and a 30-day boat seizure. If the second BUI occurred within five years of the first BUI, the individual must serve at least 10 days in jail.
  • Third Occurrence (within ten years of previous offense): The third BUI offense has harsher penalties if it occurred within ten years of any other BUI, which is considered a third-degree felony. These BUIs have punishments of up to $5,000 in fines and up to five years in prison with a required 30-day jail sentence. Most individuals who have committed a BUI for the third time will also have their boat impounded for 90 days.
  • Third Occurrence (at least ten years after the previous offense): A third BUI still has harsher penalties than other BUIs, but it is only considered a misdemeanor if it was committed at least ten years after any previous BUI. These types of BUIs usually result in between $2000 – $5,000 in fines and up to 1 year in jail. Most third BUI offenses result in a 90-day boat seizure.

BUIs also differ from DUIs when considering police intervention. In order for the police to pull a driver of a car over and require them to take a breathalyzer test, they must have some sort of reasonable suspicion that the driver is under the influence. However, police may regularly pull over boats to inspect safety equipment or check for licenses.

There are also differences in what might happen after refusing a breathalyzer test in a car versus on a boat. If an individual refuses a test in a car, your license will get suspended, and you get a first-degree misdemeanor if you refuse a second time. If the test is refused on a boat, there is a $500 fine but no suspension of your boating license. This does not apply if you are refusing a test after you have already committed a BUI.

There are some additional factors that can worsen the consequences of a BUI, including:

  • Excessive BAC: While any BAC reading over 0.08% constitutes a DUI, any reading over 0.15% is above double the legal limit, usually resulting in harsher penalties.
  • Minors: If anyone under the age of 18 is on the boat at the scene of a BUI, it is considered a more grievous offense.
  • Damage: Any BUI that causes bodily injury, manslaughter, or property damage might be subject to worse fines and longer prison time. If the individuals who were injured or have property damage decide to file a claim, you might also be on the hook for their compensation as well.
  • Multiple Offenses: The more times an individual has committed a BUI, the more penalties they will receive. This is especially true if the offenses were committed within a short time span, especially within five to ten years of each other.

In these circumstances, the event is sometimes considered an “aggravated” BUI.

Why Do I Need an Attorney?

BUI charges should be taken seriously. They often include penalties that can affect your life and career, especially with a felony offense. An attorney can review your case and devise a defense strategy to try and lessen or remove the charges. BUIs can sometimes be more complicated than a traditional DUI case, so having an attorney with a background in BUIs can be helpful when trying to argue your case.

BUI charges can be difficult to evaluate. Sometimes, a dehydrated and tired boater out on the water all day might look intoxicated without evidence. With an experienced criminal defense attorney, a felony or misdemeanor BUI charge can sometimes be reduced to a civil infraction for “careless boating.” This results in fewer punishments. If a BUI charge is taken seriously, the risk of serious consequences can be reduced or, in some cases, eliminated altogether.

Who Is the Boat Operator?

In order to be charged with a BUI, you must be one of the people in charge of operating the boat. If multiple people are operating or directing the course of the boat, then they might all be subject to BUI tests. People in charge of a boat are also liable for its operation for the entire time the boat is out on the water. This means that they are responsible for the boat even if they step away from the helm for any reason.

Tampa Boating Under the Influence FAQs

Q: What Happens if You Get a BUI in Tampa, Florida?

A: The exact punishment for a boating under the influence charge in Florida depends on how many times the event has occurred previously. Every occurrence results in fines and a range of jail time. There are also differences in sentencing for those who have committed three or more offenses within ten years of the first offense or ten years after the first offense. For additional details on your BUI, contact a Tampa criminal defense attorney today.

Q: Can You Drive a Boat With a DUI in Florida?

A: Driving a boat in Tampa, Florida requires a separate boating license that is different from a driver’s license. DUIs and BUIs are similar in that they are both used when the operator of a vehicle has a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or above. That said, if your driver’s license is suspended due to a DUI, it might not be a good idea to drive a boat. For specific advice based on your unique situation, contact a Tampa DUI attorney.

Q: At What Breath Alcohol Level Would a Boater in Tampa Be Arrested?

A: Tampa boaters are charged with BUIs if their blood alcohol level is found to be higher than 0.08%. Depending on the amount of BUIs a driver has previously received, they might be arrested for anywhere between 6 months and 5 years in jail. This also typically includes probation as well as drug and alcohol training. Working with an attorney who is experienced with criminal defense might be able to help you reduce your sentence.

Q: Does a BUI Affect Your License in Florida?

A: A BUI does not affect your driver’s license, but a BUI, especially a severe one, can lead to getting your boating privileges suspended. Some criteria that make BUIs more serious include boating with a 0.15% or higher blood alcohol level, repeat BUI offenses, BUIs with people under 18 on board, and a BUI that causes injury or damages personal property. To learn more about the penalties of a BUI, contact a Tampa BUI attorney.

Boating Under the Influence in Tampa Defense Lawyers

BUI cases often have strict deadlines and time limits. Working with a DUI attorney can help your chances of your case succeeding before a judge or jury. Schedule a consultation with Jeff Marshall Law to see how they can help you with your BUI case. Working with Jeff Marshall Law gives you access to a talented legal team with a proven track record.



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