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Felony BUI




Understanding Felony BUI in Florida

Felony Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is a serious offense in Florida. It involves operating a vessel while impaired by alcohol or drugs, leading to severe legal consequences. Understanding the nuances of Felony BUI is crucial for anyone navigating Florida’s waters.

What Constitutes a Felony BUI?

A BUI charge escalates to a felony under certain conditions. These include multiple BUI offenses, causing significant property damage, serious bodily injury, or death. Felony BUI charges carry harsher penalties compared to misdemeanor BUI.

What constitutes a Felony BUI? A Felony BUI occurs when a person operates a vessel under the influence and has multiple prior offenses, causes significant property damage, serious bodily injury, or death.

According to the 2023 Florida Statutes, specifically under statute 327.35(2)(b), a third BUI offense within ten years, or any fourth or subsequent offense, qualifies as a third-degree felony. This escalation from a misdemeanor to a felony highlights the state’s commitment to maintaining safety on its waterways.

Additionally, if a person operating a vessel under the influence causes serious bodily injury to another individual, this too can elevate the charge to a felony. The statute defines serious bodily injury as an injury that poses a substantial risk of death or causes permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.

Another critical factor is the blood-alcohol level. If a person has a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, or a breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath, they are considered legally impaired. This threshold is the same as for driving under the influence (DUI) on the road.

Understanding these elements is essential for anyone navigating Florida’s waters, as the consequences of a Felony BUI can be life-altering. For more detailed information on how BUI laws are enforced, you can refer to our page on BUI enforcement in Florida.

In summary, Felony BUI charges are not to be taken lightly. They involve severe penalties and long-term consequences, making it crucial to understand the laws and regulations surrounding boating under the influence in Florida.

To learn more about related topics, check out our guides on how to beat a BUI charge and what to do if stopped for suspected BUI.


Penalties for Felony BUI in Florida

Being convicted of a Felony BUI in Florida can result in severe penalties. These penalties are designed to deter individuals from operating vessels under the influence and to ensure public safety on the water.

Felony BUI penalties in Florida

Types of Penalties

Penalties for Felony BUI may include substantial fines, imprisonment, probation, mandatory substance abuse treatment, and community service. The severity of the penalties often depends on the specifics of the case, such as prior offenses and the level of impairment.

What are the penalties for Felony BUI in Florida? Felony BUI penalties can include fines ranging from $2,000 to $5,000, imprisonment for up to 12 months, and mandatory substance abuse treatment.

Fines

According to the 2023 Florida Statutes, fines for Felony BUI can be steep:

  • Third Offense within 10 Years: A fine between $2,000 and $5,000.
  • Fourth or Subsequent Offense: A minimum fine of $2,000, with the portion exceeding $1,000 remitted to the Department of Revenue for deposit into the General Revenue Fund.

Imprisonment

Imprisonment is a significant penalty for Felony BUI. The length of imprisonment varies based on the number of prior offenses and the circumstances of the current offense:

  • Third Offense within 10 Years: Up to 12 months in prison.
  • Fourth or Subsequent Offense: Classified as a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

Probation and Community Service

In addition to fines and imprisonment, individuals convicted of Felony BUI may face probation and community service requirements:

  • Probation: Monthly reporting probation is mandatory, along with attendance at a substance abuse course specified by the court.
  • Community Service: The court may order community service as part of the probation terms, typically requiring a minimum of 50 hours for a first conviction.

Mandatory Substance Abuse Treatment

Substance abuse treatment is often a condition of probation. The court may require attendance at a substance abuse course and may refer the offender to an authorized service provider for substance abuse evaluation and treatment. The cost of this treatment is typically borne by the offender.

Additional Penalties

Other penalties may include:

  • Impoundment of Vessel: The court may order the impoundment or immobilization of the vessel operated by the defendant for a specified period.
  • Enhanced Penalties for High BAC: If the offender’s blood-alcohol level is 0.15 or higher, or if they were accompanied by a person under 18 years of age, fines and imprisonment terms may be increased.

Understanding the severity of these penalties underscores the importance of seeking experienced legal representation. For more information on how BUI laws are enforced, you can refer to our page on BUI enforcement in Florida.

For those facing Felony BUI charges, exploring all possible defenses is crucial. Learn about how to beat a BUI charge and what to do if stopped for suspected BUI.


Facing Felony BUI charges can be daunting, but there are legal defenses available. Understanding these defenses can significantly impact the outcome of your case.

Common Defense Strategies

Defense strategies may include challenging the validity of the breathalyzer or blood test, questioning the legality of the stop, or proving that the impairment did not affect the ability to operate the vessel safely. An experienced attorney can tailor the defense to the specifics of the case.

Challenging Breathalyzer or Blood Test Validity

One of the most common defenses against Felony BUI charges involves questioning the accuracy and reliability of breathalyzer or blood tests. These tests are not infallible and can be influenced by various factors:

  • Improper Calibration: Breathalyzers must be regularly calibrated and maintained to provide accurate results. If the device was not properly calibrated, the results could be inaccurate.
  • Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as acid reflux or diabetes, can affect breathalyzer readings.
  • Improper Administration: The test must be administered by a qualified individual following specific protocols. Any deviation from these protocols can render the results unreliable.

Can breathalyzer results be challenged? Yes, breathalyzer results can be challenged if there is evidence of improper calibration, administration errors, or medical conditions affecting the results.

Questioning the Legality of the Stop

Another defense strategy involves examining the circumstances surrounding the initial stop. Law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion to stop a vessel. If the stop was not based on reasonable suspicion or probable cause, any evidence gathered during the stop may be inadmissible in court.

  • Reasonable Suspicion: The officer must have a specific and articulable reason to believe that a law is being violated.
  • Probable Cause: There must be a reasonable basis for believing that a crime has been committed.

For more information on how law enforcement conducts stops, visit our page on BUI enforcement in Florida.

Proving Impairment Did Not Affect Vessel Operation

To secure a conviction, the prosecution must prove that the impairment affected the individual’s ability to operate the vessel safely. Defense attorneys can present evidence to counter this claim:

  • Witness Testimony: Testimonies from passengers or other witnesses can support the argument that the defendant was operating the vessel safely.
  • Video Evidence: If available, video footage can demonstrate that the defendant was not impaired to the extent claimed by the prosecution.
  • Expert Testimony: Experts can testify about factors that may have influenced the defendant’s behavior, such as fatigue or medical conditions.

Understanding the specific conditions under which a BUI charge can be contested is crucial. Learn more about how to beat a BUI charge in Florida.

Other Potential Defenses

There are several other defenses that may be applicable depending on the specifics of the case:

  • Entrapment: If law enforcement induced the defendant to commit the offense, entrapment may be a viable defense.
  • Involuntary Intoxication: If the defendant was unknowingly intoxicated, this defense might be applicable.
  • Necessity: In rare cases, the defendant may argue that operating the vessel while impaired was necessary to prevent a greater harm.

For those facing BUI charges, it is essential to understand all available defense strategies. Visit our page on BUI defense options to explore more.

Facing a Felony BUI charge is serious, but with the right legal representation, it is possible to mount a strong defense. Learn more about the steps to take if charged with BUI while operating a personal watercraft in Florida.



Having skilled legal representation is crucial when facing Felony BUI charges. A knowledgeable attorney can navigate the complexities of the legal system and work towards the best possible outcome for your case.

Choosing the Right Attorney

When selecting an attorney for a Felony BUI case, consider their experience, track record, and understanding of Florida’s BUI laws. A dedicated attorney will provide personalized defense strategies and support throughout the legal process.

Felony BUI legal representation

Why Experience Matters

Experience is a critical factor when choosing a lawyer for a Felony BUI case. An experienced attorney will have a deep understanding of the BUI enforcement process in Florida, which can significantly impact the defense strategy. They will know how to scrutinize the evidence, identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, and leverage their knowledge to your advantage.

  • Knowledge of Local Laws: Florida’s BUI laws are intricate and can vary from county to county. An experienced attorney will be well-versed in these nuances.
  • Track Record of Success: A lawyer with a proven track record in defending Felony BUI cases can provide insights into what strategies have been successful in the past.
  • Familiarity with Court Procedures: Navigating the legal system requires an understanding of court procedures and the ability to work effectively within them.

Personalized Defense Strategies

Every Felony BUI case is unique, and a one-size-fits-all approach is not effective. A skilled attorney will develop a personalized defense strategy tailored to the specifics of your case. This might include:

  • Challenging Evidence: Questioning the accuracy of breathalyzer or blood test results, as discussed in our guide on how to beat a BUI charge.
  • Questioning the Legality of the Stop: If the stop was not based on reasonable suspicion or probable cause, any evidence gathered may be inadmissible.
  • Proving Lack of Impairment: Presenting evidence that the impairment did not affect the ability to operate the vessel safely.

Facing Felony BUI charges can be overwhelming, but having an attorney by your side can provide much-needed support. They will guide you through each step of the legal process, from the initial hearing to the final resolution of your case. This support includes:

  • Legal Advice: Providing clear and concise legal advice tailored to your situation.
  • Representation in Court: Representing you in court and advocating on your behalf.
  • Negotiating Plea Deals: If applicable, negotiating plea deals to reduce charges or penalties.

Felony BUI cases often involve complex legal challenges that require a skilled attorney to navigate. These challenges can include:

  • Multiple Offenses: If you have prior BUI or DUI convictions, the penalties can be more severe. An experienced attorney can help mitigate these consequences.
  • Serious Bodily Injury or Death: Cases involving serious bodily injury or death carry harsher penalties and require a robust defense strategy.
  • High Blood Alcohol Levels: Convictions with a blood alcohol level of 0.15 or higher can result in increased fines and longer imprisonment.

For more information on how prior DUI convictions can impact your BUI case, visit our page on prior DUI’s impact on BUI.

Understanding the Potential Consequences

Understanding the potential consequences of a Felony BUI conviction is essential. These consequences can include substantial fines, imprisonment, and a permanent criminal record. Additionally, a Felony BUI conviction can affect your ability to obtain certain jobs, secure loans, and maintain professional licenses.

  • Fines and Imprisonment: As outlined in the Florida Boating Under the Influence (BUI) Guide, fines can range from $2,000 to $5,000, and imprisonment can range from 6 months to several years, depending on the severity of the offense and prior convictions.
  • Probation and Community Service: In addition to fines and imprisonment, the court may impose probation and community service requirements.
  • Permanent Criminal Record: A Felony BUI conviction will result in a permanent criminal record, which can have long-term implications on your personal and professional life.

For those facing Felony BUI charges, it is crucial to have the right legal representation to navigate these challenges. Learn more about what to do if charged with BUI while operating a personal watercraft in Florida.

What are the penalties for a Felony BUI in Florida? Penalties for Felony BUI in Florida can include fines ranging from $2,000 to $5,000, imprisonment for up to several years, probation, community service, and a permanent criminal record.

Contacting a Skilled Attorney

If you are facing Felony BUI charges, contacting a skilled attorney is the first step towards protecting your rights and securing the best possible outcome for your case. An attorney can provide the legal expertise, personalized defense strategies, and support needed to navigate the complexities of the legal system.

Explore more about the FWC BUI investigations and how they can impact your case.

At Leppard Law, we understand the challenges and uncertainties you may be facing. Our experienced attorneys are dedicated to providing the highest level of legal representation and support. Contact us today at 407-476-4111 to discuss your case and learn how we can help you.


Infographic depicting the words Felony BUI


What is a Felony BUI in Florida?

A Felony BUI in Florida is defined as operating a vessel while impaired by alcohol or drugs, under conditions that elevate the charge from a misdemeanor to a felony. These conditions include multiple BUI offenses, causing significant property damage, serious bodily injury, or death.

What are the penalties for a Felony BUI in Florida?

The penalties for a Felony BUI in Florida include substantial fines, imprisonment, probation, mandatory substance abuse treatment, and community service. The severity of these penalties often depends on the specifics of the case, such as prior offenses and the level of impairment.

How can I defend against a Felony BUI charge?

Defending against a Felony BUI charge can involve several strategies, including challenging the validity of the breathalyzer or blood test, questioning the legality of the stop, or proving that the impairment did not affect your ability to operate the vessel safely. An experienced attorney can tailor the defense to the specifics of your case.

Why is legal representation important in Felony BUI cases?

Having skilled legal representation is crucial when facing Felony BUI charges. A knowledgeable attorney can navigate the complexities of the legal system, explore available defenses, and work towards the best possible outcome for your case.


Explore additional practice areas we serve to better understand how we can assist you with various legal matters:

Under-21 Boating DUI Laws DUI Affect on Insurance
FWC BUI Investigations Coast Guard BUI Investigations
Beat a BUI Charge BUI Field Sobriety Tests
Legal to Drink on a Boat BUI Enforcement in Florida
Drive Boat with Suspended License Charged with BUI on Personal Watercraft
Contest BUI Charges from Accidents Stopped for Suspected BUI
BUI Charge on Stationary Boat Prior DUI’s Impact on BUI
BUI Charge Defenses BUI Record Duration

Top-Rated Felony BUI Attorneys Serving Florida

Choosing the appropriate legal representation is crucial when pursuing a claim. A seasoned, committed DUI attorney ensures you’re equipped to make informed choices at each phase of the process.

  • John Vallillo: As a stalwart in the Florida legal scene, John Vallillo has earned his stripes through a consistent record of case dismissals and proactive defense. His background as both a prosecutor and defense attorney enriches his strategic defense planning with invaluable insights.
  • Joe Easton: Renowned for crafting winning defenses, Joe Easton’s approach to legal advocacy in Florida combines thorough preparation with aggressive representation. His notable recognitions and ratings stand testament to his exceptional service and client-focused approach.
  • Joel Leppard: Joel Leppard infuses every DUI case with a level of personal commitment and innovative thinking that sets him apart. His leadership has not only grown Leppard Law into a top-rated criminal defense law firm but also ensured that clients receive empathetic, effective legal care.

Hear From Our Satisfied Florida Clients

Serving our DUI clients with complete dedication, every case is a testament to our hard work. The appreciative feedback we receive underscores our commitment to excellence.








Contact Leppard Law: Your Trusted Felony BUI Defense Attorneys

What does it look like to have a personal relationship with your attorney? Someone who has your back when things get tough? A lawyer that knows you as well as they know your case?

At Leppard Law, we treat our clients like family. We always put their best interests first and fight for the best possible outcome for their case. But you don’t have to take our word for it – experience it for yourself. If you or a loved one have been charged with a felony BUI, contact us today to schedule a free consultation. 407-476-4111

Our dedication to excellence has earned us numerous accolades, including:

At Leppard Law, we take immense pride in helping our clients navigate through some of life’s most challenging moments. Your trust and support have fueled our commitment to excellence, and we’re honored to be a part of our shared community. While we hope you never face a criminal charge, we want you to know that if the need arises, we’re here for you.

One call to our top-rated criminal defense attorneys can make all the difference. Schedule your consultation today, and let us provide the support and legal expertise you deserve. Rest easy and pick up the phone. We’re here to help! 407-476-4111

Trusted Content


Legally Reviewed by Joe Easton

Experienced Florida DUI Attorney

Legally reviewed by Joe Easton and the content team, this article reflects the firm’s 60 years of combined criminal defense expertise. Joe Easton, with his extensive experience and strategic prowess in DUI and criminal defense, offers more than just legal representation; he brings a commitment to turning legal challenges into triumphs. His approach, combining tenacity in the courtroom with personalized client care, ensures your Felony BUI case is not just defended but championed with dedication and expertise.

Learn More About Joe Easton