fbpx

Fish and Wildlife Commision (FWC) Boating Under the Influence (BUI) Investigations




Understanding Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) Boating Under the Influence (BUI) Investigations

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) plays a crucial role in maintaining safety on Florida’s waterways. One of their primary responsibilities is conducting Boating Under the Influence (BUI) investigations. These investigations help ensure that boaters adhere to safety regulations and operate vessels responsibly.

FWC’s Role in BUI Investigations

FWC officers are tasked with enforcing boating laws, including those related to BUI. They patrol waterways, conduct vessel safety inspections, and make arrests for boating under the influence. Their goal is to prevent accidents and ensure the safety of all waterway users.

Responsibilities of FWC Officers

  • Conducting vessel safety inspections: FWC officers routinely inspect boats to ensure they meet safety standards.
  • Observing and identifying impaired operators: Officers are trained to spot signs of impairment, such as erratic behavior or slurred speech.
  • Administering field sobriety tests: FWC officers use specialized tests to determine if a boater is under the influence.
  • Making arrests for BUI: When impairment is confirmed, officers have the authority to arrest the operator for BUI.

FWC makes more BUI arrests each year than any other Florida law enforcement agency.

Understanding these roles and responsibilities is vital for anyone navigating Florida’s waterways. Knowing what to expect during an FWC BUI investigation can help boaters stay compliant and avoid legal issues.

For more detailed information on BUI laws and defenses, you can refer to our Florida BUI Guide or explore specific topics such as refusing breath tests during a BUI stop.

Initial Contact and Observations During BUI Investigations

During a typical BUI investigation, FWC officers make initial contact with boat operators through vessel stops. These stops are often conducted to perform routine safety inspections. During these inspections, officers look for signs of impairment.

Signs of Impairment

FWC officers are trained to observe and identify various signs of impairment during their initial contact with boat operators. These signs include:

  • Bloodshot and watery eyes: This is a common indicator of alcohol consumption and can be easily noticed during a face-to-face interaction.
  • Slurred speech: Impaired individuals often have difficulty articulating words clearly, which can be a red flag for officers.
  • Odor of alcohol on the breath: The smell of alcohol is a strong indicator of recent consumption and is often used as preliminary evidence of impairment.
  • Difficulty performing tasks: Simple tasks such as putting on a life jacket can become challenging for someone under the influence, indicating potential impairment.

What are the signs of impairment during a BUI investigation? Signs of impairment include bloodshot and watery eyes, slurred speech, odor of alcohol on the breath, and difficulty performing tasks.

These observations are crucial as they form the basis for further testing and potential arrest. For example, if an officer notices that a boater has bloodshot eyes and is struggling to put on a life jacket, they may proceed with more in-depth evaluations.

Routine Safety Inspections

FWC officers conduct routine safety inspections to ensure compliance with boating regulations. These inspections include checking for:

  • Proper safety equipment: Life jackets, fire extinguishers, and other safety gear must be present and in good condition.
  • Valid registration: The vessel must have valid registration documents.
  • Navigation lights: These must be functioning correctly, especially during nighttime operations.
  • Sound-producing devices: Whistles or horns must be available and operational.

During these inspections, officers also take the opportunity to observe the behavior and condition of the boat operator. If any signs of impairment are detected, the officer may decide to conduct further evaluations.

Initial Contact Procedures

When an FWC officer makes initial contact with a boat operator, they follow specific procedures to ensure a thorough and fair investigation. These procedures include:

  • Identifying the operator: The officer will request the operator’s identification and registration documents.
  • Observing behavior: The officer will closely observe the operator’s behavior and physical condition for any signs of impairment.
  • Conducting a preliminary interview: The officer may ask the operator questions about their activities, recent alcohol consumption, and overall condition.
  • Documenting observations: All observations and interactions are meticulously documented to ensure an accurate record of the investigation.

FWC officers are trained to follow specific procedures during initial contact to ensure a thorough and fair BUI investigation.

These initial steps are critical in establishing a foundation for the investigation. By carefully documenting their observations and interactions, officers can build a strong case if impairment is suspected.

Case Study: Pasco County BUI Investigation

In a notable case in Pasco County, an FWC officer arrested a boat operator for BUI after observing signs of impairment during a routine safety inspection. The officer noticed that the operator had bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and admitted to consuming several beers. Despite the operator blowing slightly above the legal limit on the Intoxilyzer 8000, the jury ultimately returned a “not guilty” verdict.

This case highlights the importance of thorough documentation and observation during initial contact. The officer’s detailed notes and adherence to procedures played a crucial role in the investigation and subsequent trial.

For more information on how to handle a BUI investigation, you can explore our guide on contesting BUI charges arising from boating accidents.

Importance of Proper Training

FWC officers undergo extensive training to ensure they can effectively identify and handle BUI cases. This training includes:

  • Recognizing signs of impairment: Officers are trained to identify physical and behavioral signs of impairment accurately.
  • Administering field sobriety tests: Officers learn how to conduct field sobriety tests adapted for the marine environment.
  • Documenting observations: Proper documentation techniques are emphasized to ensure accurate records of the investigation.
  • Legal procedures: Officers are educated on the legal aspects of BUI investigations, including the rights of the accused and proper arrest protocols.

Proper training is essential for FWC officers to effectively identify and handle BUI cases, ensuring the safety of Florida’s waterways.

This comprehensive training ensures that FWC officers are well-equipped to handle BUI investigations, from initial contact to potential arrest. Their expertise helps maintain safety on Florida’s waterways and ensures that impaired operators are held accountable.

For more detailed information on BUI laws and defenses, you can refer to our Florida BUI Guide or explore specific topics such as refusing breath tests during a BUI stop.

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) in BUI Investigations

When it comes to Boating Under the Influence (BUI) investigations, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) utilizes Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) to assess the impairment of boat operators. These tests are specifically adapted for the marine environment and are conducted while the subject is seated, ensuring safety and accuracy.

Types of SFSTs Used

FWC officers employ a variety of SFSTs to determine the level of impairment. These tests are designed to evaluate the individual’s coordination, attention, and physical control. Here are the primary types of SFSTs used in BUI investigations:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: This test involves the officer observing the subject’s eyes as they follow a moving object, such as a pen or flashlight. The officer looks for involuntary jerking movements, which can indicate impairment.
  • Finger to Nose Task: In this test, the subject is asked to close their eyes and touch the tip of their nose with their finger. This assesses the subject’s motor control and balance.
  • Palm Pat: The subject places their palms together and alternates patting the back and palm of the top hand while counting each pat. This test evaluates coordination and rhythm.
  • Hand Coordination: This test requires the subject to perform a series of hand movements in front of their chest. It is adapted from the walk-and-turn test and assesses the subject’s ability to follow instructions and maintain control.

FWC officers use Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) to assess the impairment of boat operators. These tests are adapted for the marine environment and are conducted while the subject is seated.

NASBLA’s BUI Seated Battery Exercises

FWC officers are trained to complete the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) BUI Seated Battery Exercises. These exercises are specifically designed for the unique challenges of the marine environment. The NASBLA BUI Seated Battery Transition Training Course includes:

  • Hand Coordination Test (HC): This seated field sobriety test requires the subject to perform four tasks with their hands in front of their chest. It is adapted from the walk-and-turn test.
  • Palm Pat Test (PP): This test requires the subject to place their palms together and alternate patting the back and palm of the top hand while counting each pat.

These exercises are crucial in determining the level of impairment and ensuring that the subject is evaluated accurately and safely.

Case Study: Pasco County BUI Investigation

In a notable Pasco County case, FWC Officer Damon J. Pulaski arrested a boat operator for BUI after observing signs of impairment during a routine safety inspection. Officer Pulaski, who is particularly experienced with BUI cases, administered a series of seated battery exercises. Despite the subject blowing slightly above the legal limit on the Intoxilyzer 8000, the jury ultimately returned a “not guilty” verdict.

This case highlights the importance of thorough documentation and the use of standardized tests in BUI investigations. The officer’s adherence to procedures and detailed notes played a crucial role in the investigation and subsequent trial.

For more information on how to handle a BUI investigation, you can explore our guide on refusing breath tests during a BUI stop.

FWC’s Boating / Driving Under the Influence Enforcement Packet

During BUI investigations, FWC officers use Form FWCDLE 108A (11/05), known as the “Boating / Driving Under the Influence Enforcement Packet.” This packet acts as a worksheet listing all the documents in the packet, including:

  • SFST Performance Report: Includes copies of the Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Screening Procedures and Field Notes pages or a completed form describing the subject’s performance on SFSTs.
  • Implied Consent Warning: Must be completed when requesting a blood, breath, or urine sample. If the subject refuses, the “Refusal to Submit to Blood, Breath, or Urine Testing” form must also be completed.
  • Refusal to Submit to Breath, Urine, or Blood Testing: The officer must complete the appropriate portion of the “Notice of Civil Penalties” form and read the “Notice of Civil Penalties” portion to the defendant.
  • Vehicle/Vessel Storage Receipt and Written Hold Order: Completed if the vehicle/vessel is seized or towed.
  • Citation(s): The final charge to be determined following breath test results or refusal.
  • Probable Cause/Booking Affidavit: The county form is usually available at the detention facility and includes guidelines for preparing a probable cause statement.
  • Operator Appraisal and Interview: Includes advising Miranda Warnings from the prepared text and ensuring the defendant understands, along with quoting the defendant’s answers during the interview.
  • Incident Report: Includes the incident/case report and a copy in the packet.
  • Boating Accident Investigation Report
  • Inspection/Warning Form
  • Florida BUI / DUI Impairment Report – Form FWCDLE 108: Includes sections for observation of vessel/vehicle in motion, personal contact, and pre-arrest screening.

Understanding these procedures can help boaters navigate the legal landscape if they find themselves involved in a BUI investigation. For more detailed information on BUI laws and defenses, you can refer to our Florida BUI Guide or explore specific topics such as contesting BUI charges arising from boating accidents.


If an officer from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) determines that a boat operator is impaired, the next step is to proceed with an arrest for Boating Under the Influence (BUI). This process not only involves the physical act of arresting the individual but also a series of legal procedures designed to ensure the integrity and fairness of the investigation.

Post-Arrest Procedures

After determining that impairment exists, the FWC officer will follow a series of post-arrest procedures. These steps are crucial for maintaining the legal integrity of the arrest and ensuring that all actions comply with state laws and regulations.

  • Reading the Implied Consent Warning: The officer will inform the arrestee of the implied consent law, which mandates that anyone operating a vessel is deemed to have given consent to chemical tests to determine blood alcohol content (BAC).
  • Issuing a Notice of Civil Penalties for Refusal: If the individual refuses to submit to a breath test, the officer will issue a notice outlining the civil penalties associated with the refusal, such as fines and potential suspension of boating privileges.
  • Booking the Subject into Jail: The individual will be transported to the nearest detention facility for booking. This involves taking fingerprints, photographs, and recording personal information.

Understanding these procedures can help boaters navigate the legal landscape if they find themselves involved in a BUI investigation. For more detailed information on BUI laws and defenses, you can refer to our Florida BUI Guide.

Breath Testing with the Intoxilyzer 8000

In Florida, the Intoxilyzer 8000 is the sole evidentiary instrument used for breath testing in BUI cases. This device measures the BAC of the individual and provides critical evidence for the prosecution. Here are the steps involved:

  • Administration of the Test: The officer will request the individual to blow into the Intoxilyzer 8000. This must be done at a certified testing facility, often located at the detention center.
  • Recording the Results: The BAC results are recorded and will be used as evidence in court. If the BAC is above the legal limit of 0.08%, this can significantly impact the case.
  • Handling Refusals: If the individual refuses to take the test, the officer will note this refusal and proceed with issuing the notice of civil penalties. Refusal to submit to a breath test can result in additional charges and penalties.

The Intoxilyzer 8000 is the only evidentiary instrument used for breath testing in Florida BUI cases. It measures the blood alcohol content (BAC) of the individual.

FWC officers use a comprehensive set of forms and documentation to ensure that all aspects of the BUI investigation and arrest are properly recorded. These documents are essential for building a solid case and include:

  • SFST Performance Report: This report includes detailed notes on the individual’s performance during Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs).
  • Implied Consent Warning: A form that must be completed when requesting a blood, breath, or urine sample.
  • Refusal to Submit to Testing: This form is used if the individual refuses to submit to the requested tests and includes a notice of civil penalties.
  • Probable Cause/Booking Affidavit: A detailed affidavit outlining the probable cause for the arrest and booking information.
  • Incident Report: A comprehensive report detailing the incident, observations, and actions taken by the officer.

For more insights into how these forms are used and their importance, you can explore our guide on contesting BUI charges.

Consider the case of a BUI arrest in Pasco County where our client was stopped by FWC Officer Damon J. Pulaski. After observing signs of impairment, the officer administered a series of seated battery exercises and conducted a breath test using the Intoxilyzer 8000. Despite the client blowing slightly above the legal limit, the jury returned a “not guilty” verdict.

This case underscores the importance of thorough documentation and adherence to legal procedures. The officer’s detailed notes and compliance with standardized testing protocols were critical in the investigation. However, our defense successfully challenged the breath test results, highlighting the complexities involved in BUI cases.

For more examples and strategies on defending BUI charges, you can visit our BUI defense strategies page.

Conclusion

Understanding the arrest and legal procedures in BUI cases is crucial for anyone navigating the complexities of Florida’s boating laws. From the initial arrest to the administration of breath tests and the completion of legal documentation, every step plays a vital role in the outcome of the case. If you find yourself facing BUI charges, it’s essential to seek experienced legal counsel to guide you through the process and protect your rights.

For more information on BUI laws and how to defend against these charges, contact Leppard Law at 407-476-4111 or visit our contact page.

Legal Books


Infographic depicting the words Fish and Wildlife Commision (FWC) Boating Under the Influence (BUI) Investigations


What happens during a typical BUI investigation by FWC?

During a typical BUI investigation by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), officers make initial contact with boat operators through vessel stops. These stops are often conducted to perform routine safety inspections. During these inspections, officers look for signs of impairment such as bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and the odor of alcohol. If impairment is suspected, officers may administer Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) adapted for the marine environment.

What are the penalties for Boating Under the Influence (BUI) in Florida?

The penalties for Boating Under the Influence (BUI) in Florida can be severe and include fines, imprisonment, and mandatory completion of a boating safety course. For a first offense, penalties may include a fine between $500 and $1,000 and up to six months in jail. Subsequent offenses carry harsher penalties, including higher fines and longer jail terms. Additionally, a BUI conviction can result in the suspension of boating privileges.

Can you refuse a breath test during a BUI investigation?

Yes, you can refuse a breath test during a BUI investigation, but there are consequences. Refusing a breath test can result in civil penalties, such as fines and the suspension of boating privileges. Additionally, refusal can be used as evidence against you in court. The officer will read the implied consent warning, informing you of these penalties before administering the test.

What should I do if I am stopped for suspected BUI in Florida?

If you are stopped for suspected BUI in Florida, it’s important to remain calm and cooperative. Provide the requested documents such as your identification and vessel registration. Avoid making any incriminating statements and politely decline to answer questions without an attorney present. You have the right to refuse field sobriety tests, but be aware that this may have legal consequences. Contact an experienced BUI defense attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights.

Explore additional areas we specialize in to find the right legal support for your needs:

Florida BUI Guide Reckless Vessel Operation
Under 21 BUI Laws BUI Breath Test Refusal
Coast Guard BUI Investigations Beating BUI Charges
BUI Field Sobriety Tests Drinking on Boats
BUI Enforcement in Florida Boating with Suspended License
BUI on Personal Watercraft BUI Accident Charges
Stopped for BUI BUI on Non-Moving Boat
Prior DUI Impact on BUI BUI Defenses in Florida

Top-Rated BUI Investigations by Officers with FWC 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.

Read Reviews from Our DUI Clients in Florida

At the forefront of our DUI practice is a deep-seated commitment to client satisfaction. Each case is handled with utmost care, as echoed in the appreciative feedback from those we represent. Stellar reviews are what make us one consistently one of Central Florida’s top-rated DUI law firms. This are just a portion of our hundreds of 5-star reviews on Facebook, Google, Thumbtack, Yelp, and more. You can read more 5-star reviews here: https://leppardlaw.com/reviews/







Contact Leppard Law: Your Trusted DUI Defense Team

At Leppard Law, we understand the complexities and stress that come with facing a Boating Under the Influence (BUI) charge. Our experienced attorneys are here to provide you with the personal, dedicated support you need. We treat our clients like family, always putting their best interests first and fighting for the best possible outcome.

But don’t just take our word for it. Leppard Law has been recognized for excellence in the legal field, and our numerous awards speak volumes about our commitment to our clients:

  • SuperLawyers “Rising Star” – SuperLawyers, 2019-2020. Only 1.5 percent of lawyers selected by their peers. Learn more.
  • Awesome Attorneys Orlando – Orlando Family Magazine, 2019-2023. Selected by readers and legal peers. Learn more.
  • Top 10 DUI Attorneys near Orlando, FL – Thumbtack, 2023. Recognized for outstanding DUI defense. Learn more.
  • Top 10 DUI Attorneys near Kissimmee, FL – Thumbtack, 2023. Highlighted for exceptional legal service. Learn more.
  • Best DUI Lawyers in Deltona – Expertise, 2023. Listed among the best for DUI defense. Learn more.

Facing a BUI charge? Rest easy and pick up the phone. Our top-rated criminal defense attorneys are ready to help. Contact us today at 407-476-4111 to schedule your free consultation and experience our award-winning service firsthand.


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 BUI case is not just defended but championed with dedication and expertise.

Learn More About Joe Easton