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How to Beat a Boating Under the Influence (BUI) Charge in Florida




Understanding Boating Under the Influence (BUI) Laws in Florida

Before diving into strategies to beat a Boating Under the Influence (BUI) charge in Florida, it’s crucial to understand the specific laws and regulations surrounding BUI. This section will cover what constitutes BUI, the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits, and the penalties associated with a BUI conviction.

What Constitutes Boating Under the Influence?

In Florida, Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is defined as operating a vessel while impaired by alcohol or drugs. The legal BAC limit is 0.08%, similar to DUI laws. However, even a lower BAC can result in a BUI charge if it impairs your ability to operate the vessel safely.

Boating under the influence is taken very seriously in Florida due to the potential dangers it poses. Just like driving a car, operating a boat while impaired can lead to accidents, injuries, and even fatalities. According to Florida law, a person can be charged with BUI if they are found to have a BAC of 0.08% or higher, or if their normal faculties are impaired due to alcohol or drugs.

What is Boating Under the Influence (BUI)? Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is operating a vessel while impaired by alcohol or drugs, with a legal BAC limit of 0.08% in Florida.

It’s important to note that BUI laws apply not only to motorized boats but also to non-motorized vessels such as sailboats, canoes, and kayaks. This means that any type of watercraft can be subject to BUI regulations, making it essential for all boaters to be aware of these laws.

Penalties for BUI in Florida can be severe, especially for repeat offenders or those involved in accidents. Here are some of the potential penalties:

  • First Offense: Fines ranging from $250 to $500, and up to six months in jail.
  • Second Offense: Fines between $500 and $1,000, and up to 12 months in jail.
  • Third Offense (within 10 years): Fines up to $5,000, and up to five years in prison.

Additionally, more severe penalties can be imposed if certain aggravating factors are present, such as having a BAC higher than 0.15%, having a passenger under the age of 18, or causing an accident that results in property damage, injury, or death.

Understanding these laws and penalties is the first step in preparing a defense against a BUI charge. For more detailed information on Florida’s BUI laws and penalties, you can refer to our Florida BUI Guide.

It’s also crucial to recognize that even if you are not actually operating the boat, you can still be charged with BUI. Florida law allows for charges to be brought against individuals who are in “care and control” of a vessel, which can include situations where a person is asleep while impaired on the boat.

Given the complexities of BUI laws and the severe consequences of a conviction, it’s essential to seek legal advice from an experienced DUI attorney who can help navigate the legal process and build a strong defense strategy.

For more information on how to handle a BUI stop and what to do if you are charged, check out our guide on what to do if stopped for suspected BUI in Florida.

Common Defenses Against BUI Charges in Florida

When facing a Boating Under the Influence (BUI) charge in Florida, several legal defenses can be employed to challenge the prosecution’s case. This section will discuss common defenses such as illegal stops, improper field sobriety tests, and insufficient probable cause.

Illegal Stops

Law enforcement officers must have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to stop a vessel. If it can be proven that the stop was illegal, any evidence obtained during the stop may be suppressed, weakening the prosecution’s case.

What constitutes an illegal stop in a BUI case? An illegal stop occurs when law enforcement lacks reasonable suspicion or probable cause to stop a vessel, making any evidence obtained during the stop inadmissible in court.

The legality of the stop is a critical factor in any BUI case. Officers must have a valid reason to believe that the operator is violating the law. For instance, if an officer stops a boat without observing any suspicious behavior or traffic violations, this could be grounds to challenge the stop’s legality. Successfully arguing that the stop was illegal can lead to the suppression of crucial evidence, such as breath test results or field sobriety test observations.

Illegal stops are a common defense strategy in BUI cases. If you believe your stop was unlawful, it’s essential to consult with an experienced attorney who can scrutinize the circumstances of your stop and build a strong defense. For more information on how to handle such situations, you can refer to our guide on handling BUI stops.

Improper Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests must be administered under specific guidelines. Factors such as physical disabilities, injuries, or improper administration can make these tests unreliable. Challenging the validity of these tests can be a strong defense strategy.

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Improper field sobriety tests are a significant defense in BUI cases. These tests are designed to assess a person’s coordination, balance, and cognitive function, which can be affected by various factors unrelated to alcohol consumption. For example, an individual with a physical disability or injury may perform poorly on these tests, leading to a false indication of impairment.

What are improper field sobriety tests? Improper field sobriety tests are those administered incorrectly or under conditions that make the results unreliable, such as physical disabilities or environmental factors.

Additionally, the environment in which the tests are conducted can impact their reliability. Conducting field sobriety tests on a moving boat or in adverse weather conditions can skew the results. If the officer administering the test is not properly trained or fails to follow the standardized procedures, the test results can be challenged in court.

For a detailed look at how field sobriety tests should be conducted and the potential pitfalls, you can explore our Florida BUI Field Sobriety Exercises Guide.

Insufficient Probable Cause

An arresting officer can only issue a BUI test if they have probable cause to believe that the operator of the boat is under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance. If the defendant can prove probable cause was based on unreasonable conclusions or insufficient evidence, then all of the evidence obtained in the search can be suppressed.

Probable cause is a cornerstone of any BUI arrest. Officers must have a reasonable basis to believe that the individual is impaired. This belief must be supported by observable facts, such as erratic driving, slurred speech, or the smell of alcohol. If the arresting officer’s probable cause is based on weak or insufficient evidence, it can be challenged in court.

What is insufficient probable cause in a BUI case? Insufficient probable cause occurs when an officer’s belief that an individual is impaired is not supported by strong or observable evidence, making the evidence obtained inadmissible.

For instance, if an officer arrests someone based solely on an anonymous tip without observing any behavior indicative of impairment, this could be considered insufficient probable cause. Successfully challenging the probable cause can lead to the suppression of all evidence obtained during the arrest, significantly weakening the prosecution’s case.

To understand more about the role of probable cause in BUI cases and how it can be contested, you can visit our BUI defense options page.

Inadmissible Breath Results

Breathalyzer machines are extremely flawed devices that often show inconsistent and inadequate results. Officers who administer these tests are required to do so under very specific standards and care for them in very specific ways. The failure to adequately maintain the machine or the failure to administer the test appropriately can result in the results being thrown out.

Breath test results are a common piece of evidence in BUI cases, but they are not infallible. Various factors can affect the accuracy of these tests, including improper calibration, maintenance issues, and operator error. For example, if the breathalyzer machine was not calibrated correctly or maintained according to the manufacturer’s guidelines, the results can be inaccurate.

What are inadmissible breath results? Inadmissible breath results occur when breathalyzer tests are administered incorrectly or the machine is not properly maintained, leading to unreliable and inadmissible evidence in court.

Additionally, the officer administering the test must follow specific protocols to ensure the accuracy of the results. Any deviation from these protocols can be grounds to challenge the admissibility of the breath test results. For instance, if the officer fails to observe the individual for the required observation period before administering the test, the results can be contested.

For more insights into the issues surrounding breathalyzer tests and how they can be challenged, you can read our guide on common breathalyzer errors.

Challenging Field Sobriety and Chemical Tests

Field sobriety tests and chemical tests are commonly used to determine impairment in BUI cases. This section will explore how to challenge the validity and accuracy of these tests, including issues with test administration and equipment calibration.

Improper Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests must be administered under specific guidelines. Factors such as physical disabilities, injuries, or improper administration can make these tests unreliable. Challenging the validity of these tests can be a strong defense strategy.

Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are designed to assess a person’s coordination, balance, and cognitive function. However, these tests can be flawed for several reasons. For instance, if you have a physical disability or injury, it can significantly impact your performance, leading to inaccurate results. Additionally, environmental factors, such as the movement of the boat or poor weather conditions, can also affect the outcome.

What are improper field sobriety tests? Improper field sobriety tests are those administered incorrectly or under conditions that make the results unreliable, such as physical disabilities or environmental factors.

Officers administering these tests must follow standardized procedures. Any deviation from these protocols can render the test results invalid. For example, if an officer is not properly trained or fails to account for your medical conditions, the test results can be challenged in court. Understanding how field sobriety tests should be conducted is crucial for building a defense.

Inaccurate Breathalyzer and Chemical Test Results

Breathalyzer machines and chemical tests are frequently used to measure blood alcohol concentration (BAC). However, these devices are not infallible. Issues such as improper calibration, maintenance problems, and operator error can lead to inaccurate results.

For instance, a breathalyzer machine that has not been calibrated correctly may produce false readings. Similarly, if the device has not been maintained according to the manufacturer’s guidelines, it can lead to inconsistent results. Operator error, such as failing to follow the proper procedures, can also compromise the accuracy of the test.

What are inaccurate breathalyzer and chemical test results? Inaccurate breathalyzer and chemical test results occur when the devices are improperly calibrated, poorly maintained, or operated incorrectly, leading to unreliable measurements of blood alcohol concentration.

Challenging the accuracy of these tests is a common defense strategy in BUI cases. An experienced attorney can scrutinize the maintenance records of the breathalyzer machine and the procedures followed by the officer to identify any discrepancies. For more insights into the issues surrounding breathalyzer tests, you can read our guide on common breathalyzer errors.

Questioning the Reliability of Blood Tests

Blood tests are often considered the most accurate method for determining BAC. However, even these tests can be flawed. Issues such as contamination, improper storage, and errors in the chain of custody can affect the reliability of blood test results.

For example, if the blood sample is not stored at the correct temperature, it can degrade, leading to inaccurate results. Contamination during the collection or analysis process can also compromise the integrity of the sample. Additionally, any breaks in the chain of custody can cast doubt on the validity of the test results.

What are the issues with blood tests in BUI cases? Issues with blood tests in BUI cases include contamination, improper storage, and errors in the chain of custody, which can affect the reliability of the test results.

An experienced attorney can investigate the procedures followed during the collection, storage, and analysis of the blood sample to identify any potential issues. For a deeper understanding of how blood tests are used in DUI cases, you can explore our comprehensive guide to DUI blood tests.

Challenging the Officer’s Observations

The observations made by the arresting officer play a crucial role in BUI cases. However, these observations can be subjective and influenced by various factors. Challenging the officer’s observations can be an effective defense strategy.

For instance, an officer may misinterpret signs of fatigue or seasickness as indicators of impairment. Additionally, if the officer’s report contains inconsistencies or deviations from standard procedures, it can be used to cast doubt on the prosecution’s case.

What are the issues with an officer’s observations in BUI cases? Issues with an officer’s observations in BUI cases include subjectivity, misinterpretation of signs, and inconsistencies in the officer’s report, which can be challenged to cast doubt on the prosecution’s case.

Scrutinizing the officer’s observations and procedures is essential for building a robust defense. For more information on this topic, you can refer to our guide on how officers often mistake medical issues for signs of impairment.

Challenging the validity and accuracy of field sobriety and chemical tests is a critical aspect of defending against a BUI charge. By identifying flaws in the administration of these tests and questioning the reliability of the results, you can strengthen your defense and increase the chances of a favorable outcome.


Having skilled legal representation is crucial when facing a Boating Under the Influence (BUI) charge in Florida. This section will discuss the benefits of hiring an experienced DUI attorney, including their ability to navigate the legal system, negotiate plea deals, and provide a strong defense in court.

Why You Need an Experienced DUI Attorney

An experienced DUI attorney understands the intricacies of BUI laws and can identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. They can negotiate plea deals, challenge evidence, and provide a robust defense, increasing the chances of a favorable outcome.

Facing a BUI charge can be overwhelming, especially when considering the severe penalties involved. First-time offenders can face fines between $250 and $500 and up to six months in jail. Repeat offenders face even harsher penalties, including higher fines and longer jail sentences. For instance, a second BUI offense can result in fines between $500 and $1,000 and up to 12 months in jail. Given these potential consequences, having a knowledgeable attorney by your side is essential.

One of the key roles of a DUI attorney is to scrutinize the evidence against you. This includes examining the legality of the stop, the administration of field sobriety tests, and the accuracy of chemical tests. For example, if the breathalyzer machine was not properly calibrated, the results could be challenged. Understanding the nuances of breath test refusals and their implications is another area where an experienced attorney can provide valuable guidance.

What are the benefits of hiring an experienced DUI attorney? An experienced DUI attorney can identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, negotiate plea deals, and provide a robust defense, increasing the chances of a favorable outcome.

The legal system can be complex and intimidating, especially for those unfamiliar with its workings. An experienced DUI attorney can help you navigate this system, ensuring that you understand your rights and options at every stage of the process. They can also handle the procedural aspects of your case, such as filing motions and negotiating with prosecutors.

For instance, if you were stopped by the Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) or the Coast Guard, specific procedures must be followed. Any deviation from these procedures can be grounds for challenging the evidence. An attorney familiar with Coast Guard BUI investigations can identify these procedural errors and use them to your advantage.

Negotiating Plea Deals

In some cases, negotiating a plea deal may be the best option. An experienced DUI attorney can negotiate with prosecutors to reduce the charges or penalties you face. This can be particularly beneficial if the evidence against you is strong. For example, if you are facing a third BUI offense, which can result in up to five years in prison and fines up to $5,000, a plea deal could significantly reduce these penalties.

What is the role of a DUI attorney in negotiating plea deals? A DUI attorney can negotiate with prosecutors to reduce the charges or penalties you face, potentially resulting in a more favorable outcome.

Plea deals are often complex and require a thorough understanding of the law and the specific circumstances of your case. An experienced attorney can assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case and negotiate a deal that minimizes the impact on your life. For more information on plea deals and their impact, you can explore our guide to plea bargains in DUI cases.

Providing a Strong Defense in Court

If your case goes to trial, having a skilled attorney is crucial. They can present a compelling defense, cross-examine witnesses, and challenge the prosecution’s evidence. This is particularly important in BUI cases, where the evidence can often be subjective and open to interpretation.

For example, an attorney can challenge the reliability of field sobriety tests by highlighting factors such as poor weather conditions or the movement of the boat. They can also question the officer’s observations and procedures, casting doubt on the prosecution’s case. Understanding the intricacies of field sobriety tests is essential for building a strong defense.

Why is it important to have a DUI attorney in court? A DUI attorney can present a compelling defense, cross-examine witnesses, and challenge the prosecution’s evidence, increasing the chances of a favorable outcome.

Additionally, an experienced attorney can leverage expert witnesses to support your defense. For instance, they can call upon experts to challenge the accuracy of chemical tests or to provide alternative explanations for your behavior. This can be particularly effective in cases involving higher BAC levels or accidents resulting in injuries. For more insights into the role of expert witnesses, you can read our guide on accident reconstruction experts.

In conclusion, having skilled legal representation is crucial when facing a BUI charge in Florida. An experienced DUI attorney can navigate the legal system, negotiate plea deals, and provide a strong defense in court, significantly increasing the chances of a favorable outcome. If you find yourself facing a BUI charge, don’t hesitate to seek the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney who can guide you through this challenging process.


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What are the penalties for a BUI conviction in Florida?

The penalties for a BUI conviction in Florida can include fines ranging from $250 to $5,000, and jail time from six months to five years, depending on the number of offenses and severity of the incident. For more details, you can refer to our Florida BUI Guide.

Can you refuse a breath test during a BUI stop in Florida?

Yes, you can refuse a breath test during a BUI stop in Florida, but it may result in additional penalties, including fines and possible suspension of boating and driving privileges. More information can be found in our article on BUI Breath Test Refusal.

How can an attorney help defend against a BUI charge?

An attorney can help defend against a BUI charge by challenging the legality of the stop, scrutinizing the administration and accuracy of field sobriety and chemical tests, and negotiating plea deals to reduce charges or penalties. For more on this, see our section on BUI Defense Strategies.

What should you do if you are stopped for a suspected BUI in Florida?

If you are stopped for a suspected BUI in Florida, remain calm, be polite, exercise your right to remain silent, and contact an experienced BUI attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights and build a strong defense. For more advice, check out our guide on Handling BUI Stops.


Other Practice Areas We Serve

Explore additional areas of legal practice we specialize in to find the right support for your needs.

Florida BUI Guide Reckless Vessel Operation
Under 21 BUI Laws BUI Breath Test Refusal
FWC BUI Investigations 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

Top-Rated DUI Lawyers Serving Florida

Looking for the best DUI lawyers in Florida? Our distinguished team of attorneys is committed to offering you the best possible defense against your DUI charges.

  • 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.

Discover What Our Clients Are Saying

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. You can read more 5 star reviews here: https://leppardlaw.com/reviews/








Contact Leppard Law Today for Your BUI Defense

Facing a Boating Under the Influence (BUI) charge in Florida can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to navigate it alone. At Leppard Law: DUI Lawyers, we treat our clients like family, always putting your best interests first and fighting for the best possible outcome for your case. Our experienced attorneys know you as well as they know your case, ensuring you receive personalized and dedicated representation.

But don’t just take our word for it. Experience it for yourself. If you or a loved one has been charged with a BUI or any other criminal offense, contact us today to schedule a free consultation. Our top-rated criminal defense attorneys are ready to help you. Call us at 407-476-4111 and let us provide the support and legal expertise you deserve.

“Best of Orlando” for Criminal and DUI Defense on Thumbtack and Yelp for six years in a row! 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.

Awards and Recognitions

Don’t just take our word for it. Reach out to us today and witness our expertise yourself. Here are some of the awards and recognitions that highlight our commitment to excellence:

Award Granting Organization Year Criteria
SuperLawyers “Rising Star” SuperLawyers 2019-2020 Only 1.5 percent of lawyers selected by their peers
Awesome Attorneys Orlando Orlando Family Magazine 2019-2023 As selected by readers of Orlando Family Magazine and legal peers
#5 “Fastest Growing Law Firm in the US” Law Firm 500 2019 Fastest growing law firms in the United States according to Law Firm 500 and independent auditing agency
#5 “Fastest Growing Law Firm in the US” Law Firm 500 2020 Fastest growing law firms in the United States according to Law Firm 500 and independent auditing agency
Top 10 DUI Attorneys near Orlando, FL Thumbtack 2024 Top 10 DUI Attorneys in Orlando based on client reviews and ratings

At Leppard Law, we combine legal expertise with a personal touch to provide unbeatable defense. Whether you’re facing a BUI charge or any other criminal offense, rest easy and pick up the phone. We’re here to help! Call us at 407-476-4111 today.

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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.

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