As states and counties begin to open up from lockdown, parks, golf courses and marinas have been given a first shot at compliance with new regulations. Boating is a practically a religion for many South Florida residents and with recreational boating comes drinking alcohol. The Florida Wildlife Commission, along with local city and county police agencies, are not only being tasked with enforcing social distancing regulations, but also Boating Under the Influence laws.
Here’s what happened at Black Point last weekend when Miami-Dade County opened up the marina to boaters, video courtesy of The Miami Herald.
The Basics of a BUI
BUI laws exist to minimize people operating a boat or watercraft while impaired by alcohol or under the influence of narcotics. The U.S. Coast Guard warns that “alcohol is more hazardous on water than on land.”
Law enforcement authorities can pull a boater over, just like a driver on the road, if they are suspected of a BUI. With so many boaters locked up in their homes for the past two months, it will be no surprise if our sand bars become real bars in no time at all.
Boaters face other environmental factors which include heat, sun, noise, wind, and the general effects of being on the water for a long period of time. Add alcohol or drugs into the mix, operating a vessel on the water can be severely impaired and become very dangerous.
BUI: Elements of the Offense
Most states define BUI in similar fashion. Generally, operating a watercraft on a body of water while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or with an unlawful breath alcohol level (.08 in all states).
Consequences of a BUI Conviction
Convictions for boating under the influence can have severe consequences due in great part to the increase in boating injuries and fatalities. In addition to a possible criminal conviction, boat operators can have their boating licenses suspended or revoked. Repeat offenders or boating with minors on board, could face higher consequences. However, a standard BUI in Florida carries similar penalties to a DUI conviction.
Boating Safety Tips
In addition to social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic there’s some other things boaters should keep top of mind:
- Exercise increased caution during major holiday weekends: Holiday weekends are usually considered the deadliest weekends for accidents involving alcohol, both on the water and on the road. Know your local boating regulations: We will have a lot of out-of-towners in Florida in the future and it’s important to understand what the local regulations say about both open containers and BUI laws.
- Make sure that you and all passengers on the boat wear life vests: Life vests, in general are always a good idea. Many boating deaths and accidents could have been avoided operators and their passengers had worn their life vests.
Additional tips to avoiding a BUI include:
- Take along a variety of non-alcoholic drinks. Having no alcohol while aboard is the safest way to enjoy the water;
- Bring food and snacks;
- Stay cool and hydrated;
- Plan to limit your trip to a reasonable time to avoid fatigue.
- If you dock somewhere and drink alcohol, wait a reasonable time before operating your boat.
It is imperative that you consult with a qualified Miami BUI lawyer who specializes in DUI/BUI defense if you have been arrested for boating under the influence. An experienced defense attorney can walk you through your options and help you plan for the best strategy in court.
Contact my firm today so I can get your defense in motion right away!