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What defenses are available for a BUI charge in Florida?




Understanding the Basics of BUI Charges in Florida

Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is a serious offense in Florida, akin to Driving Under the Influence (DUI). It involves operating a vessel while impaired by alcohol or drugs. The legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for operating a boat in Florida is 0.08%. However, even if your BAC is below this threshold, you can still face BUI charges if your normal faculties are impaired.

Penalties for BUI in Florida

The consequences of a BUI conviction can be severe, including fines, probation, community service, mandatory alcohol education programs, and even imprisonment. Repeat offenses or incidents involving property damage, injury, or death can lead to more stringent penalties.

What are the penalties for BUI in Florida? The penalties for a BUI conviction may include fines, probation, community service, mandatory alcohol education programs, and imprisonment.

For a first-time BUI offense, you might face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. A second offense can result in up to nine months in jail and fines up to $2,000. If you are convicted of a third BUI offense within ten years, it becomes a third-degree felony, which can lead to up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

Additional penalties include:

  • Probation: Up to one year, including monthly reporting and community service.
  • Mandatory Counseling: Completion of drug and alcohol counseling programs.
  • Enhanced Penalties: For incidents involving high BAC levels, minors on board, or resulting in accidents.

Aggravated BUI charges come into play when the conduct is deemed more severe. For instance, if your BAC is 0.15% or higher, or if the BUI incident resulted in an accident causing property damage, bodily injury, or death, the penalties are significantly harsher. These can range from first-degree misdemeanors to second-degree felonies, with prison sentences extending up to fifteen years and fines reaching $10,000.

Understanding the gravity of these penalties highlights the importance of mounting a robust defense. Whether you’re a resident or a tourist enjoying Florida’s waters, the repercussions of a BUI conviction can be life-changing. For more detailed information on reckless operation of a vessel and other related offenses, it is crucial to consult with a knowledgeable attorney.

Florida law enforcement officials, including officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), regulate the state’s boating laws strictly. It’s not uncommon to be stopped by law enforcement officials while boating and asked to submit to a blood-alcohol test or field sobriety test. If you’re found operating a boat with a BAC above the legal limit, you could face BUI charges.

Given the severe penalties and the complexities involved in BUI cases, it is highly recommended to seek the assistance of an experienced DUI attorney who specializes in BUI cases. A skilled attorney can thoroughly evaluate the evidence against you, identify any procedural errors, and build a strong defense strategy tailored to your specific circumstances.

For more information on how to handle BUI charges and the possible defenses available, you can explore our detailed guide on beating BUI charges in Florida.

Common Defenses Against BUI Charges

Legal Books - BUI Defense

When facing BUI charges, understanding the available defenses can significantly impact the outcome of your case. Here are some common defenses that can be employed:

Lack of Probable Cause

Law enforcement officers must have a valid reason to stop and board your vessel. If there was no probable cause, such as a violation of navigational rules or a safety concern, the stop may be deemed unlawful, and any evidence obtained subsequently may be inadmissible.

Faulty Breathalyzer or Chemical Testing

Breathalyzer or chemical testing devices used to measure blood alcohol content must be properly maintained, calibrated, and administered according to established protocols. Any deviation from these standards could result in inaccurate readings and can be challenged in court before and during a BUI trial.

Breathalyzer or chemical testing devices used to measure blood alcohol content must be properly maintained, calibrated, and administered according to established protocols.

Consider the scenario where the device was not calibrated correctly. This could lead to faulty readings, potentially showing a higher BAC than the actual level. An experienced attorney can scrutinize the maintenance records and calibration logs of the device used in your case.

Medical Conditions or Fatigue

Certain medical conditions or fatigue can mimic the symptoms of impairment, such as slurred speech or unsteady balance. If you can demonstrate that your behavior was a result of a medical condition or exhaustion rather than alcohol or drug use, it may serve as a viable defense.

Another potential defense is a violation of your Miranda rights. If you were not properly advised of your rights during the arrest, any statements you made may be suppressed as evidence in court.

Inaccurate Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs)

Field sobriety tests conducted on the water can be affected by environmental factors, such as waves, wind, and boat motion, which can lead to inaccurate results. Additionally, these tests rely on subjective observations by the arresting officer and can be challenged on the basis of their reliability.

Field sobriety tests conducted on the water can be affected by environmental factors, such as waves, wind, and boat motion, which can lead to inaccurate results.

Imagine trying to balance on a moving boat; even a sober person might struggle. This inherent difficulty can be used to question the validity of the test results. It’s essential to highlight these environmental challenges when building your defense.

Challenging the Officer’s Observations

The observations and procedures followed by the arresting officer are critical components of a BUI case. Any deviations from standard protocols or inconsistencies in the officer’s report can be used to cast doubt on the prosecution’s case.

For instance, if the officer noted slurred speech but failed to consider that you have a speech impediment or were suffering from dehydration, this could be a point of contention. Your attorney can cross-examine the officer and highlight these inconsistencies.

Miranda Rights Violation

If you were not properly advised of your Miranda rights during the arrest, any statements you made may be suppressed as evidence in court. It is essential to consult with an attorney to assess whether your rights were violated during the arrest.

Suppose you were interrogated without being informed of your right to remain silent. In that case, any self-incriminating statements you made could be deemed inadmissible, significantly weakening the prosecution’s case.

Improper Handling of Evidence

Proper protocol must be followed in collecting, storing, and handling evidence. Any mishandling can lead to contamination or loss of evidence, which can be challenged in court.

For example, if the sample used for the chemical test was not stored correctly, it could degrade, leading to inaccurate results. Your attorney can request the chain of custody records to identify any lapses in procedure.

Understanding these defenses and how they apply to your case can make a significant difference. If you are facing BUI charges, it is crucial to work with an experienced attorney who can navigate these complexities and build a robust defense strategy tailored to your situation.

For more information on defending against BUI charges, you can explore our detailed resources on how to beat a BUI charge and BUI breath test refusal.

Challenging Field Sobriety and Chemical Tests

Field sobriety tests and chemical tests are commonly used to determine impairment levels. However, these tests can be challenged on various grounds:

Inaccurate Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs)

Field sobriety tests conducted on the water can be affected by environmental factors, such as waves, wind, and boat motion, which can lead to inaccurate results. Additionally, these tests rely on subjective observations by the arresting officer and can be challenged on the basis of their reliability.

Field sobriety tests conducted on the water can be affected by environmental factors, such as waves, wind, and boat motion, which can lead to inaccurate results.

Imagine trying to balance on a moving boat; even a sober person might struggle. This inherent difficulty can be used to question the validity of the test results. It’s essential to highlight these environmental challenges when building your defense.

Faulty Breathalyzer or Chemical Testing

Breathalyzer or chemical testing devices used to measure blood alcohol content must be properly maintained, calibrated, and administered according to established protocols. Any deviation from these standards could result in inaccurate readings and can be challenged in court before and during a BUI trial.

Consider the scenario where the device was not calibrated correctly. This could lead to faulty readings, potentially showing a higher BAC than the actual level. An experienced attorney can scrutinize the maintenance records and calibration logs of the device used in your case.

Breathalyzer or chemical testing devices used to measure blood alcohol content must be properly maintained, calibrated, and administered according to established protocols.

For instance, if the device used for your test was not calibrated properly, the results might be inaccurate. Your attorney can request the calibration logs and maintenance records to identify any discrepancies.

Improper Handling of Evidence

Proper protocol must be followed in collecting, storing, and handling evidence. Any mishandling can lead to contamination or loss of evidence, which can be challenged in court.

For example, if the sample used for the chemical test was not stored correctly, it could degrade, leading to inaccurate results. Your attorney can request the chain of custody records to identify any lapses in procedure.

Another crucial aspect to consider is the qualifications and training of the officer conducting the tests. If the officer lacks proper training or certification, this can be used to challenge the validity of the test results.

Questioning Officer’s Observations

The observations and procedures followed by the arresting officer are critical components of a BUI case. Any deviations from standard protocols or inconsistencies in the officer’s report can be used to cast doubt on the prosecution’s case.

For instance, if the officer noted slurred speech but failed to consider that you have a speech impediment or were suffering from dehydration, this could be a point of contention. Your attorney can cross-examine the officer and highlight these inconsistencies.

The observations and procedures followed by the arresting officer are critical components of a BUI case. Any deviations from standard protocols or inconsistencies in the officer’s report can be used to cast doubt on the prosecution’s case.

Environmental Factors Affecting Chemical Tests

Chemical tests can also be influenced by environmental factors. For example, exposure to certain chemicals or gases in the marine environment can interfere with the accuracy of breathalyzer tests.

Imagine being exposed to engine fumes or cleaning agents before taking a breath test. These substances can potentially skew the results. Your attorney can investigate whether any environmental factors could have affected your test.

If you are facing a BUI charge, understanding these potential defenses can significantly impact your case. For more detailed information on BUI defenses, you can explore our comprehensive guide on how to beat a BUI charge.


Other Viable Defenses in BUI Cases

There are additional defenses that can be used to contest BUI charges:

Medical Conditions or Fatigue

Certain medical conditions or fatigue can mimic the symptoms of impairment, such as slurred speech or unsteady balance. If you can demonstrate that your behavior was a result of a medical condition or exhaustion rather than alcohol or drug use, it may serve as a viable defense.

For instance, conditions like diabetes, neurological disorders, or even severe dehydration can produce symptoms that appear similar to intoxication. It’s crucial to provide medical records or expert testimony to support this defense. Fatigue, especially after prolonged exposure to the sun and physical exertion while boating, can also cause symptoms that mimic impairment.

Certain medical conditions or fatigue can mimic the symptoms of impairment, such as slurred speech or unsteady balance.

Violation of Miranda Rights

Another potential defense is a violation of your Miranda rights. If you were not properly advised of your rights during the arrest, any statements you made may be suppressed as evidence in court. This can significantly weaken the prosecution’s case.

For example, if you were questioned by law enforcement without being informed of your right to remain silent or your right to an attorney, any incriminating statements you made might be inadmissible. This defense hinges on the procedural correctness of the arrest process and can be a powerful tool in your defense strategy.

If you were not properly advised of your rights during the arrest, any statements you made may be suppressed as evidence in court.

Improper Handling of Evidence

Proper protocol must be followed in collecting, storing, and handling evidence. Any mishandling can lead to contamination or loss of evidence, which can be challenged in court.

For instance, if the sample used for the chemical test was not stored correctly, it could degrade, leading to inaccurate results. Your attorney can request the chain of custody records to identify any lapses in procedure. This defense can be particularly effective if there are gaps or inconsistencies in how the evidence was handled.

Another crucial aspect to consider is the qualifications and training of the officer conducting the tests. If the officer lacks proper training or certification, this can be used to challenge the validity of the test results.

Environmental Factors Affecting Chemical Tests

Chemical tests can also be influenced by environmental factors. For example, exposure to certain chemicals or gases in the marine environment can interfere with the accuracy of breathalyzer tests.

Imagine being exposed to engine fumes or cleaning agents before taking a breath test. These substances can potentially skew the results. Your attorney can investigate whether any environmental factors could have affected your test.

Exposure to certain chemicals or gases in the marine environment can interfere with the accuracy of breathalyzer tests.

Questioning Officer’s Observations

The observations and procedures followed by the arresting officer are critical components of a BUI case. Any deviations from standard protocols or inconsistencies in the officer’s report can be used to cast doubt on the prosecution’s case.

For instance, if the officer noted slurred speech but failed to consider that you have a speech impediment or were suffering from dehydration, this could be a point of contention. Your attorney can cross-examine the officer and highlight these inconsistencies.

Additionally, the financial burden of fines, legal fees, and mandatory programs can be overwhelming. If you’re a professional, such as a nurse or a commercial airline pilot, a DUI conviction can jeopardize your career and professional license.

Inaccurate Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs)

Field sobriety tests conducted on the water can be affected by environmental factors, such as waves, wind, and boat motion, which can lead to inaccurate results. Additionally, these tests rely on subjective observations by the arresting officer and can be challenged on the basis of their reliability.

Imagine trying to balance on a moving boat; even a sober person might struggle. This inherent difficulty can be used to question the validity of the test results. It’s essential to highlight these environmental challenges when building your defense.

Faulty Breathalyzer or Chemical Testing

Breathalyzer or chemical testing devices used to measure blood alcohol content must be properly maintained, calibrated, and administered according to established protocols. Any deviation from these standards could result in inaccurate readings and can be challenged in court before and during a BUI trial.

Consider the scenario where the device was not calibrated correctly. This could lead to faulty readings, potentially showing a higher BAC than the actual level. An experienced attorney can scrutinize the maintenance records and calibration logs of the device used in your case.

If you are facing a BUI charge, understanding these potential defenses can significantly impact your case. For more detailed information on BUI defenses, you can explore our comprehensive guide on how to beat a BUI charge.

Remember, each BUI case is unique, and the defenses applicable to your situation may vary. It’s essential to consult with a knowledgeable attorney who can tailor a defense strategy to your specific circumstances. At Leppard Law, we have the expertise and dedication to help you navigate the complexities of your BUI case.

Criminal Law - Gavel and Scales

For more insights into the nuances of BUI cases, including the role of field sobriety tests and the impact of prior DUI convictions, explore our extensive resources. Understanding your rights and the legal landscape is crucial in building a robust defense.

Additionally, the financial burden of fines, legal fees, and mandatory programs can be overwhelming. If you’re a professional, such as a nurse or a commercial airline pilot, a DUI conviction can jeopardize your career and professional license.

If you are facing a BUI charge, understanding these potential defenses can significantly impact your case. For more detailed information on BUI defenses, you can explore our comprehensive guide on how to beat a BUI charge.


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

If you are stopped for suspected Boating Under the Influence (BUI) in Florida, remain calm and polite. Do not admit to drinking or using drugs. You have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. It’s advisable to contact a lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your case and potential defenses.

Can you be charged with BUI if the boat isn’t moving?

Yes, you can be charged with Boating Under the Influence (BUI) in Florida even if the boat is not moving. The law applies to any vessel that is being operated, which can include being anchored or docked if the operator is in control of the vessel and under the influence.

What happens when you refuse breath testing in a Florida BUI case?

Refusing breath testing in a Florida BUI case can result in additional penalties. Florida’s implied consent law means that by operating a vessel, you agree to submit to chemical testing if suspected of BUI. Refusal can lead to fines and other consequences, including the use of the refusal as evidence against you in court.

How does prior DUI conviction impact a BUI case?

A prior DUI conviction can significantly impact a BUI case in Florida. It may lead to enhanced penalties, including higher fines, longer probation periods, and increased jail time. Additionally, the court may view you as a repeat offender, which can affect the outcome of your case.







What defenses are available for a BUI charge in Florida?

Explore additional areas where our expertise can assist you:

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.

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What defenses are available for a BUI charge in Florida?

Contact Us for Expert BUI Defense in Florida

At Leppard Law, we understand the stress and uncertainty that comes with facing a BUI charge. Our team of experienced attorneys is committed to providing you with the best defense possible, utilizing our extensive knowledge and personalized approach.

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 criminal offense, contact us today to schedule a free consultation at 407-476-4111.

Our firm has been recognized among the best in the industry:

SuperLawyers “Rising Star” SuperLawyers, 2019 – 2020
Awesome Attorneys Orlando Orlando Family Magazine, 2019-2023
Top 10 Dui Attorneys near Orlando, FL Thumbtack, 2024
Top 10 Best DUI Law Near Orlando, Florida Yelp, 2024
3 Best DWI & DUI Lawyers in Orlando, FL Three Best Rated, 2024

Our attorneys are as renowned for their legal skills as they are for their client-focus. Leppard Law is ranked among the “Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Orlando” by Expertise from 2016-2024 and “Best DUI Lawyers in Orlando” by Expertise from 2016-2024. Our Florida DUI Lawyers & Criminal Defense Attorneys always strive to provide extraordinary customer service to our select clients and promise to provide each client’s case the time, attention, and skillful representation that it deserves, exhausting every possible angle to strive to achieve the best possible outcome for our clients.

While we’re not the largest firm in Central Florida, according to Yelp, Avvo, and Thumbtack, our customer service and results are unparalleled. Our experienced criminal lawyers provide our clients with the same resources available from the larger firms, but we’re known for our unique dedication to personal attention.

Leppard Law has over 60 years of combined experience defending thousands of Floridians accused of crimes. The attorneys are renowned for both their trial advocacy and skillful negotiations, seeking to achieve the best results for their clients–including countless dismissals and reductions. Being charged with a crime, whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony, can cause a lot of anxiety. If you are not properly represented, the stigma of being branded as a “criminal” may follow you around for many years to come. Rest easy and pick up the phone. We’re here to help! Call us today at 407-476-4111.


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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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