Note: With the onset of summer, we will discuss drunk driving in Florida – its penalties, and its consequences – in a multi-part series. Topics covered will include the following: DUI statistics in Florida, DUI penalties, several ways a first-time DUI conviction will ruin your summer, boating and drinking, and the dangers of drunk-driving on the Fourth of July. Be safe, have fun, and if you decide to imbibe, please have someone sober drive. Few things will put the brakes on your summer vacation like being arrested for a DUI.
So far in 2015, eleven people have died in boating accidents in Florida. “If you’re going to be drinking, [make sure] that you have a designated driver, designated operator of the vessel. Boating under the influence is similar to driving under the influence,” according to Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
Criminal penalties for drinking while operating a boat are similar to those for drivers, with the exception of open containers. Open containers are allowed on boats; however, state law sets limits on the blood-alcohol content and impairment of the operator/driver of the boat. What is a BUI? In Florida, a vessel operator is presumed to be under the influence if their blood or breath-alcohol level is at or above .08. Any person under 21 years of age who is found to have a breath-alcohol level of .02 or higher, and operates or is in actual physical control of a vessel, is in violation of Florida law and subject to arrest for BUI.
BUI officers can conduct a stop when they have probable cause to believe a boat is violating a regulation or speeding. In certain cases, the BUI officers can stop a boat for a random inspection related to an equipment check, fishing compliance or safety registration (see below). The officer can ask the operator of the boat to perform a hand-held breath test or complete a series of sobriety exercises, or chemical tests of the boater’s blood, breath or urine.
Civil requirements of boaters – According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, inattentiveness by a vessel’s operator often contributes to boating accidents. Statistics also show that more than 70 percent of the 73 boating-related deaths confirmed last year were attributed to drowning. Florida boaters are required by law to adhere to the following:
- The owner and/or operator of a vessel is responsible to carry, store, maintain and use the safety equipment required by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).
- All vessels are required to have onboard a wearable USCG-approved personal flotation device (PFD) for each person. The PFDs must be of the appropriate size for the intended wearer, be in serviceable condition, and within easy access. The State of Florida urges all people onboard a boat to wear a life jacket.
- Vessels 16 feet in length or longer must also have at least one USCG-approved throwable Type IV PFD that is immediately available in case of a fall overboard.
- A child under the age of 6 must wear a USCG-approved Type I, II or III personal flotation device while onboard a vessel under 26 feet in length while the vessel is under way. “Under way” is defined as anytime except when the vessel is anchored, moored, made fast to the shore or aground.
- Vessels with built-in fuel tanks or enclosed compartments where gasoline fumes can accumulate are required to carry at least one fire extinguisher (depending upon vessel length) which is approved for marine use.
- All vessels are required to carry an efficient sound-producing device, such as a referee’s whistle.
- Vessels less than 16 feet in length are required to carry at least 3 visual distress signals approved for nighttime use when on coastal waters from sunset to sunrise. Vessels 16 feet or longer must carry at least 3 daytime and three nighttime visual distress signals (or 3 combination daytime/nighttime signals) at all times when on coastal waters.
- The use of sirens or flashing, occulting or revolving lights is prohibited except where expressly allowed by law.
- Recreational vessels are required to display navigation lights between sunset and sunrise and during periods of reduced visibility (fog, rain, haze, etc.). The U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Rules specify lighting requirements for every description of watercraft.
Boaters who do not have the required equipment may receive a civil citation. Citations range in cost from $53 for a non-moving violation to $90 for a moving violation.
If boaters have any questions regarding boating safety or boating laws, they can contact the Sheriff’s Office to have them answered. Also, detailed information is available on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s website: http://www.myfwc.com/RULESANDREGS/Rules_Boat.htm.
If you are arrested for BUI, call a BUI attorney in Tampa immediately. They can help you sort out any questions you may have regarding submitting to a breath test or any other sobriety test. They can look into the details of the arrests to ensure that none of your rights have been violated. If there have been violations, the attorneys can use these to get your charge dismissed or your penalties reduced. BUI cases are not as cut and dried as they may seem, and a lawyer from reliable firms like Bauer Crider & Parry can help prevent the life-changing consequences of BUI. Remember, arrest does not always lead to conviction.