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Boating under the influence has serious consequences

Summer is a great time for water festivals and parties. Many boat operators will drive a boat while they're drinking or after having a few. Although licenses are not required for boat operators, it is possible to be charged with boating under the influence, or BUI. According to the Florida statutes, the penalties for a BUI are just as serious as for a DUI, although there are a few differences you should know about.

A BUI has the same guidelines for blood alcohol content as a DUI, or 0.08 percent. However, it can often be difficult to tell who is operating a boat. In one case, the man driving the boat left the steering wheel to go to the bathroom. A young girl on the boat was killed when the boat crashed. Although the man was not actually at the wheel, he was considered to be the one operating the boat.

When a police officer stops a motor vehicle, there must be probable cause of a traffic infraction or reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Police officers can stop and board a boat for many different reasons, which do not include "reasonable suspicion of a crime." Law enforcement can come on your boat to check registration and then discover that you are operating your boat under the influence.

When you are operating a motor vehicle and refuse a breathalyzer test, your license may be suspended for 12 to 18 months. If law enforcement arrests you for a BUI, it is not your driver's license that will be in jeopardy if you refuse the blood, breath or urine test. It is your wallet. You may have to pay a $500 fine for the first-time refusal. It is also likely that if you get a conviction of BUI, you will have 50 hours of community service. A BUI in Florida is serious, and while your driving license may not be at risk, your time, money and potential criminal conviction are. It would benefit you to speak to a lawyer before pleading guilty.

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