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



Understanding Florida’s BUI Laws

When you’re stopped for suspected Boating Under the Influence (BUI) in Florida, it’s crucial to understand the state’s BUI laws. Florida has stringent regulations to ensure the safety of its waterways, and knowing these laws can help you navigate the legal process more effectively.

What Constitutes BUI in Florida?

In Florida, a person can be charged with BUI if they operate a vessel while impaired by alcohol or drugs. The legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is 0.08%, similar to the limit for driving a car. However, law enforcement officers can also charge you with BUI if they believe your normal faculties are impaired, even if your BAC is below 0.08%.

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

Florida’s waters attract millions of tourists each year, making it a popular destination for boating and other water activities. However, these activities come with inherent risks, and Florida law enforcement officials, including officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), regulate the state’s boating laws heavily. 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 a person is believed to be operating a boat in Florida’s waters under the influence of alcohol (above the legal limit of 0.08%), they may face BUI charges. The consequences of a BUI charge can be severe, making it essential to understand the laws and your rights if you find yourself in this situation.

Florida’s BUI Penalties

The penalties for BUI in Florida can be harsh, especially for repeat offenders. Here are the varying degrees of BUIs in Florida along with their penalties:

  • First BUI Offense: A misdemeanor that can result in jail time of up to six months and a fine of up to $1,000.
  • Second BUI Offense: A misdemeanor that can result in jail time of up to nine months and a fine of up to $2,000.
  • Third BUI Offense Within Ten Years: A third-degree felony that can result in jail time of up to five years and a fine of up to $5,000.
  • Third BUI Offense More Than Ten Years After Prior Offense: A misdemeanor that can result in jail time of up to one year and a fine between $2,000 and $5,000.

In addition to jail time and fines, all individuals convicted of BUI in Florida will be on probation for up to one year for each offense. The terms of probation include monthly reporting, completion of community service, and completion of drug and alcohol counseling. The probationary period may be longer for repeat BUI convictions.

Without the help of a qualified Florida BUI Defense Lawyer, many individuals reach the worst possible outcome. While an experienced attorney cannot guarantee a certain outcome, they can certainly use all legal avenues to fight for a client’s rights and interests in the courtroom.

Aggravated BUI Charges

BUIs in Florida can become “aggravated” in certain cases when the conduct in question is deemed more severe or dangerous. If, for example, a person suspected of BUI has a BAC of 0.15% or greater, they could be facing aggravated BUI charges. Moreover, if a person suspected of BUI has a prior conviction of driving under the influence (DUI) and/or another drug-related conviction, they could face aggravated BUI charges.

Additional circumstances in which aggravated BUI charges may be brought in Florida include:

  • A BUI incident resulting in an accident that caused property damage.
  • A BUI incident resulting in an accident that caused bodily injury or death to another person.
  • A BUI incident involving a minor (an individual under the age of eighteen) present on the boat or vessel at the time of the incident.

What is an Aggravated BUI in Florida? An aggravated BUI involves severe or dangerous conduct, such as a high BAC, prior DUI convictions, or accidents causing injury or death.

The penalties for aggravated BUIs are more severe. For example, a BUI-related accident that results in property damage is a first-degree misdemeanor, which could lead to a one-year jail sentence and a fine of $1,000. A BUI that involves bodily injury is considered a third-degree felony, which could lead to jail time of up to five years and a fine of up to $5,000.

Understanding these laws and penalties is crucial for anyone operating a boat or vessel in Florida. If you find yourself facing BUI charges, it’s essential to seek legal counsel immediately to protect your rights and build a strong defense.

For more detailed information on BUI laws and penalties, you can refer to our Florida BUI Guide. If you are under 21, check out our Under 21 BUI Laws page. If you have refused a breath test, read about the consequences of refusing breath tests in BUI cases.

What to Do When Stopped for Suspected BUI

Being stopped for suspected Boating Under the Influence (BUI) can be a stressful experience, but knowing how to handle the situation can make a significant difference. Here are some steps to follow if you’re stopped by law enforcement on the water:

  • Stay Calm and Cooperative: Remain calm and polite. Cooperate with the officer’s instructions and avoid any confrontational behavior.
  • Know Your Rights: You have the right to remain silent. You do not have to answer questions about your alcohol consumption or where you have been.
  • Field Sobriety Tests: Be aware that field sobriety tests on a boat can be challenging due to the unstable environment. You have the right to refuse these tests, but refusal may have consequences.

Following these steps can help you manage the situation more effectively and protect your legal rights.

What are the consequences of refusing field sobriety tests? Refusing field sobriety tests during a BUI stop may result in automatic charges and other legal consequences.

When you’re stopped for suspected BUI, the first and most crucial step is to remain calm. Law enforcement officers, including those from Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), are trained to handle such situations, and your cooperation can significantly impact the outcome. Avoiding confrontational behavior and following the officer’s instructions can help de-escalate the situation.

Understanding Your Rights

It’s essential to understand your rights when stopped for suspected BUI. You have the right to remain silent, meaning you do not have to answer questions about your alcohol consumption or recent activities. This right can protect you from self-incrimination, especially if you are unsure about the implications of your statements.

Additionally, you should be aware that you have the right to refuse field sobriety tests. These tests can be particularly challenging on a boat due to the unstable environment. However, refusing to take these tests can have consequences. In Florida, refusal to submit to a field sobriety test can lead to automatic charges and may be used against you in court.

Field Sobriety Tests on the Water

Field sobriety tests are standard procedures used by law enforcement to assess a person’s level of impairment. On the water, these tests can be even more challenging due to factors such as the boat’s movement, waves, and wind. Common field sobriety tests include:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test: The officer will ask you to follow a moving object with your eyes. The officer looks for involuntary jerking of the eyes, which can indicate impairment.
  • Walk-and-Turn Test: You will be asked to walk in a straight line, heel to toe, turn, and walk back. This test assesses your balance and coordination, which can be affected by alcohol.
  • One-Leg Stand Test: You will be asked to stand on one leg for a certain period. This test evaluates your balance and ability to follow instructions.

Given the challenges of performing these tests on a boat, it’s essential to understand that you have the right to refuse. However, refusal can have legal consequences, so it’s crucial to weigh your options carefully.

What is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test? The HGN test is a field sobriety test where an officer asks you to follow a moving object with your eyes to detect involuntary jerking, which can indicate impairment.

Documenting the Incident

After being stopped for suspected BUI, it’s essential to document the incident as thoroughly as possible. Write down everything you remember, including the officer’s behavior, the tests conducted, and any statements made. This information can be invaluable if you need to build a defense later.

Here are some tips for documenting the incident:

  • Record Details: Note the date, time, and location of the stop. Describe the weather and water conditions, as these factors can impact the field sobriety tests.
  • Officer’s Behavior: Document the officer’s behavior, including any instructions given and how they conducted the tests.
  • Statements Made: Write down any statements made by you or the officer. This information can be crucial for your defense.

Documenting the incident can help your attorney build a strong defense and identify any potential discrepancies in the officer’s report.

One of the most critical steps you can take after being stopped for suspected BUI is to seek legal counsel immediately. An experienced BUI attorney can help you navigate the legal process, protect your rights, and build a strong defense. They can also advise you on the best course of action based on the specifics of your case.

For more information on what to do if you’re stopped for suspected BUI, you can refer to our guide on handling BUI charges. Additionally, understanding the enforcement of BUI laws in Florida can provide valuable insights into what to expect during a BUI stop.

By following these steps and understanding your rights, you can better manage the situation and protect your legal interests if stopped for suspected BUI in Florida.

Consequences of a BUI Conviction

If you’re convicted of Boating Under the Influence (BUI) in Florida, the penalties can be severe. Understanding the potential consequences can help you take the situation seriously and seek the appropriate legal assistance.

Penalties for BUI in Florida

The penalties for a BUI conviction in Florida vary depending on the circumstances of the offense and whether you have any prior convictions. Possible penalties include:

  • First Offense: Up to 6 months in jail, fines up to $1,000, probation, and mandatory substance abuse education.
  • Second Offense: Up to 9 months in jail, fines up to $2,000, and increased probation and education requirements.
  • Third Offense: If within 10 years, it’s a third-degree felony with up to 5 years in prison and fines up to $5,000.

Understanding these penalties underscores the importance of handling a BUI stop correctly and seeking legal counsel if charged.

Additional Penalties and Consequences

Beyond jail time and fines, a BUI conviction can have other far-reaching consequences. These additional penalties can significantly impact your life and future.

  • Probation: All individuals convicted of BUI in Florida will be on probation for up to one year for each offense. The terms of probation include monthly reporting, completion of community service, and completion of drug and alcohol counseling.
  • Mandatory Counseling/Treatment: Convicted individuals must complete substance abuse education and treatment programs.
  • Impact on Employment: A BUI conviction can tarnish your record, making it difficult to obtain employment, rent a home or apartment, or attend college.

What are the penalties for a first BUI offense in Florida? A first BUI offense in Florida can result in up to 6 months in jail, fines up to $1,000, probation, and mandatory substance abuse education.

Aggravated BUI Charges

In certain cases, a BUI charge can be elevated to an aggravated BUI. This occurs when the conduct in question is deemed more severe or dangerous. Scenarios that can lead to aggravated BUI charges include:

  • High BAC: If the individual’s BAC is 0.15% or greater.
  • Prior Convictions: If the individual has prior convictions for driving under the influence (DUI) or other drug-related offenses.
  • Accidents and Injuries: If the BUI incident results in an accident causing property damage, bodily injury, or death.
  • Minor on Board: If there is a minor (under 18 years old) present on the boat at the time of the incident.

Penalties for Aggravated BUI

The penalties for aggravated BUI are more severe and can include longer jail sentences and higher fines. For instance:

  • Property Damage: A BUI-related accident resulting in property damage is a first-degree misdemeanor, which could lead to a one-year jail sentence and a fine of $1,000.
  • Bodily Injury: A BUI that involves bodily injury is deemed a third-degree felony, which could lead to jail time of up to five years and a fine of up to $5,000.
  • Death: A BUI that involves the death of another person is considered BUI manslaughter, a second-degree felony that could lead to jail time of up to fifteen years and a fine of up to $10,000.

What are the penalties for aggravated BUI involving bodily injury? A BUI that involves bodily injury is deemed a third-degree felony, which could lead to jail time of up to five years and a fine of up to $5,000.

It’s important to note that if a person suspected of BUI leaves the scene of a boating accident instead of rendering aid to injured victims, the person could face a first-degree felony, which could lead to jail time of up to thirty years and a fine of up to $10,000.

Long-Term Consequences

In addition to the immediate penalties, a BUI conviction can have long-term consequences that affect various aspects of your life. These can include:

  • Insurance Rates: A BUI conviction can lead to increased insurance premiums for both auto and boat insurance. Learn more about the impact of a BUI on insurance policies.
  • Professional Licenses: Certain professions require clean records, and a BUI conviction can jeopardize professional licenses and certifications.
  • Personal Relationships: The stigma associated with a BUI conviction can strain personal relationships and affect your social standing.

Given the severe consequences of a BUI conviction, it’s crucial to seek experienced legal representation. An attorney can help you navigate the legal process, contest the charges, and work towards the best possible outcome for your case.

If you find yourself facing a BUI charge, remember that you have the right to defend yourself. Understanding the potential penalties and long-term consequences can help you make informed decisions and take the necessary steps to protect your future.


How to Protect Your Rights After a BUI Stop

Protecting your rights after being stopped for suspected Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is crucial. Taking the right steps can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case.

  • Contact an Attorney: Seek legal counsel immediately. An experienced BUI attorney can help you navigate the legal process and build a strong defense.
  • Document the Incident: Write down everything you remember about the stop, including the officer’s behavior, the tests conducted, and any statements made.
  • Follow Legal Advice: Your attorney will guide you on the best course of action. Follow their advice closely to ensure the best possible outcome for your case.

What are the penalties for BUI in Florida? The penalties for a BUI conviction in Florida can include fines, jail time, probation, and mandatory substance abuse education.

By taking these steps, you can better protect your rights and improve your chances of a favorable outcome in your BUI case.

Why Contacting an Attorney is Essential

One of the most important steps you can take after a BUI stop is to contact an attorney. An experienced attorney can help you understand the complexities of Florida’s BUI laws and provide the guidance you need to navigate the legal system. They can help you gather evidence, challenge the prosecution’s case, and negotiate for reduced charges or penalties.

Florida’s boating laws are heavily regulated, and law enforcement officials, including officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), often conduct random safety checks on the water. If you are stopped and suspected of BUI, you need an attorney who understands these regulations and can help you build a strong defense.

Documenting the Incident

Immediately after the stop, take the time to document everything you remember. This can include:

  • The officer’s behavior and demeanor
  • The tests you were asked to perform
  • Any statements made by you or the officer
  • The conditions on the water at the time of the stop

This information can be crucial in building your defense. For example, the field sobriety tests conducted on a boat can be challenging due to the unstable environment. Documenting the conditions and your experience can help your attorney challenge the validity of these tests.

Your attorney will provide you with specific advice tailored to your case. This may include:

  • How to respond to further inquiries from law enforcement
  • What evidence to gather and preserve
  • Strategies for challenging the prosecution’s case

Following this advice closely can improve your chances of a favorable outcome. For example, if you are facing charges for reckless operation of a vessel, your attorney can help you understand the specific elements of this charge and how to contest them.

Facing a BUI charge can be daunting, but understanding the legal process can help you feel more in control. Here are some key steps in the process:

  1. Arraignment: This is your first court appearance, where you will enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.
  2. Discovery: During this phase, both sides exchange evidence. Your attorney will review the prosecution’s evidence and gather additional evidence to support your defense.
  3. Pre-Trial Motions: Your attorney may file motions to suppress evidence or dismiss the charges based on procedural errors or lack of evidence.
  4. Trial: If your case goes to trial, your attorney will present your defense and challenge the prosecution’s evidence.
  5. Sentencing: If you are convicted, the judge will impose a sentence based on the severity of the offense and any mitigating factors presented by your attorney.

Throughout this process, your attorney will be your advocate, working to protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome.

Potential Defenses to BUI Charges

There are several potential defenses to BUI charges that your attorney may explore, including:

  • Challenging the Stop: Law enforcement must have probable cause to stop your boat. If the stop was not justified, any evidence obtained during the stop may be inadmissible.
  • Questioning the Tests: The accuracy of field sobriety and breathalyzer tests can be challenged, especially if the tests were conducted under difficult conditions.
  • Arguing No Physical Control: If you were not actually operating the boat at the time of the stop, you may have a defense against the charges.

For more detailed information on defending against BUI charges, check out our comprehensive guide to beating BUI charges.

Conclusion

Protecting your rights after a BUI stop is crucial to ensuring the best possible outcome for your case. By contacting an experienced attorney, documenting the incident, and following legal advice, you can build a strong defense and navigate the legal process more effectively. Remember, the penalties for a BUI conviction can be severe, so it’s important to take the situation seriously and seek the appropriate legal assistance.

If you need immediate assistance, don’t hesitate to contact us for a free consultation.


Infographic depicting the words What should I do if I'm stopped for suspected BUI in Florida?


What is Boating Under the Influence (BUI) in Florida?

Boating Under the Influence (BUI) in Florida means operating a vessel while impaired by alcohol or drugs. The legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is 0.08%, similar to driving a car. However, you can be charged with BUI if your normal faculties are impaired, even if your BAC is below 0.08%.

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

If you are stopped for suspected BUI in Florida, you should stay calm and cooperative, know your rights including the right to remain silent, and be aware that field sobriety tests on a boat can be challenging. It’s crucial to contact an experienced attorney immediately to help navigate the legal process.

What are the penalties for a BUI conviction in Florida?

The penalties for a BUI conviction in Florida can include jail time, fines, probation, and mandatory substance abuse education. For a first offense, you may face up to 6 months in jail and fines up to $1,000. Penalties increase with subsequent offenses, potentially leading to felony charges.

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

Yes, you can refuse a breath test during a BUI stop in Florida, but refusal may have consequences. Refusing a breath test can result in an automatic BUI charge and may be used against you in court. It’s important to consult an attorney to understand your rights and options.

Explore other practice areas we serve to understand the full scope of our legal expertise:

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 BUI on Non-Moving Boat
Prior DUI Impact on BUI BUI Defenses in Florida

Top-Rated DUI Lawyers 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.

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. Stellar reviews are what make us one consistently one of Central Florida’s top-rated DUI law firms. You can read more 5 star reviews here: https://leppardlaw.com/reviews/








Take the Next Step: Protect Your Future with Leppard Law

Being stopped for a suspected BUI in Florida can be a daunting experience, but you don’t have to face it alone. At Leppard Law, we treat our clients like family, always putting your best interests first. Our dedicated team of top-rated criminal defense attorneys is here to provide the support and legal expertise you deserve.

But don’t just take our word for it. Our commitment to excellence has been recognized in numerous awards and listings:

  • SuperLawyers “Rising Star” (2019-2020) by SuperLawyers – Only 1.5 percent of lawyers selected by their peers. Learn more.
  • Awesome Attorneys Orlando (2019-2023) by Orlando Family Magazine – As selected by readers and legal peers. Learn more.
  • Top 10 DUI Attorneys near Orlando, FL (2024) by Thumbtack – Recognized among the best DUI lawyers in the area. Learn more.
  • Best DUI Lawyers in Orlando (2024) by Expertise – Listed among the top DUI attorneys in Orlando. Learn more.
  • Client Champion Platinum (2018-2024) by Martindale Hubbell – Less than 1% of attorneys selected. Learn more.

Our accolades are a testament to our unwavering dedication to our clients. If you or a loved one have been charged with a BUI or any other criminal offense, don’t wait. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and experience our exceptional legal service firsthand.

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

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