Boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs can seriously endanger the vessel operator, their passengers and others using the waterway. These substances dull the senses and reflexes that are vital for boaters to remain in command of their craft and stay safe on the water. That’s why the state of Florida has instituted strict laws regarding boating under the influence, and severe penalties for those who break them.
It is against Florida law to operate a vessel while impaired by alcohol or drugs. A person may be convicted of boating under the influence if their faculties are deemed to be affected by illicit substances, or if their blood or breath alcohol content is 0.8 or higher.
A boating law enforcement officer who suspects a vessel operator of boating under the influence can require them to submit to tests to determine their level of impairment and blood or breath alcohol content.
Fines and imprisonment penalties for BUI vary depending on the severity of the offense. Several factors can result in increased penalties, including having prior BUIs or DUIs, having an excessively high blood alcohol content, having an individual under the age of 18 in the vessel at the time of the offense, or if the impairment led to a boating accident that caused property damage, injury or death.
Individuals who are convicted of a BUI are placed on probation. This includes impoundment of their vessel for a designated period of time and mandatory attendance at a substance abuse course. The court may refer the violator for substance abuse evaluation and treatment, and if the penalties include imprisonment, some or all of the time served may take place in a substance abuse treatment facility, at the court’s discretion. Probation may also include community service.
Individuals who are convicted of a BUI are required to attend and pass a state-approved boating safety course and file proof of course completion with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. They must also successfully complete a safe boating course specifically for violators.
Florida boating law requires violators and all motorboat operators born on or after Jan. 1, 1988 to take a boater safety education course. If you fall into either one of these categories or if you simply want to learn everything you need to know about operating a vessel safely, take Drive a Boat USA’s Florida boating safety course online!