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Fighting Boating under the Influence Charges in Pinellas & Hillsborough Counties

Under Florida law, BUIs are the water equivalent of driving under the influence. Just like in a DUI, your normal faculties are impaired when you are boating under the influence. Law enforcement officials can observe your behavior or administer a breath or urine test to seek proof that you are boating under the influence.

If you have been charged with BUI, you face serious repercussions, including jail time and hefty fines. That’s why you need the experience of Attorney Andrew Buda, a criminal defense lawyer with former prosecution experience. There is no substitute for experience and legal knowledge in these cases. Our Tampa BUI lawyer has both and is ready to put them to work for you.

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Call our Tampa BUI attorney at Buda Law at 813-322-2832 or complete our online contact form to request a free consultation.

What is a BUI?

In Florida, driving or being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcoholic beverages or chemical substances warrants a DUI charge. This is similar to the criminal offense of BUI, which stands for boating under the influence. This means that a boater’s BAC is above the legal limit (a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher), and a law enforcement officer, officer of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, or the U.S. Coast Guard stops them, they may be charged with a Florida BUI

Like DUI offenses in Florida, BUI is taken very seriously, and violators may face harsh consequences if convicted. That is why those facing such charges need an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney on their side to help protect their rights and mitigate the consequences of their offense.

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Florida BUI Laws

Florida law strongly prohibits being under the influence of alcohol or drugs while in operation of a maritime vessel. This legislation can be found under Florida Statutes Section 327.35. It states:

(1) A person is guilty of the offense of boating under the influence and is subject to punishment as provided in subsection (2) if the person is operating a vessel within this state and:

(a) The person is under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any chemical substance set forth in s. 877.111, or any substance controlled under chapter 893, when affected to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired;

(b) The person has a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood; or

(c) The person has a breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.

Penalties for a BUI in Florida

There are serious consequences for those who are found guilty of boating under the influence in Florida, including incarceration, license suspension or revocation, and monetary fines. Like most criminal offenses, the penalties for a BUI conviction depend on whether or not the offender has any previous convictions on their criminal record. Below, our Tampa BUI defense lawyers will outline the potential penalties for those accused of first and subsequent BUI offenses:

First BUI Conviction

For a first BUI conviction with a blood alcohol concentration at or over 0.08%, the penalties are as follows:

  • Between $500 to $1,000 in fines
  • Up to 6 months in jail

For a first BUI conviction with a blood alcohol concentration over 0.15% or if a minor under the age of 18 was present on the vessel, the penalties increase to:

  • Between $1,000 to $2,000 in fines
  • Up to 9 months in jail

Second BUI Conviction

For a second BUI conviction with a blood alcohol concentration at or over 0.08%, potential penalties include:

  • Between $1,000 to $2,000 in fines
  • Up to 9 months in jail

For a second BUI conviction with a blood alcohol concentration over 0.15% or if a minor under the age of 18 was present on the vessel, the penalties increase to:

  • Between $2,000 to $4,000 in fines
  • Up to 12 months in jail

Third BUI Conviction

For a third BUI offense occurring within 10 years of a prior conviction, it becomes a third-degree felony. A third-degree felony in Florida is punishable by up to five (5) years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. If the offense occurs more than 10 years after the previous conviction, defendants face a prison sentence of no more than 12 months and between $2,000 to $5,000 in fines. 

For a third or subsequent conviction of a BUI with a blood alcohol concentration over 0.15% or if a minor under the age of 18 was present on the vessel, a minimum of $4,000 may be added to the fines.

Fourth BUI Conviction

For a fourth or subsequent BUI conviction, regardless of the amount of time that has passed since the previous conviction, defendants face a third-degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.

A BUI Accident Leading to Property Damage, Serious Bodily Injury, or Death

Any boat operator who is found to have been under the influence and causes damage to the property or person of another faces a first-degree misdemeanor. First-degree misdemeanors in Florida carry a maximum sentence of up to one year in county jail and/or fines up to $1,000.

If the boat operator causes serious bodily injury to another, they commit a felony in the third degree, which includes a punishment of up to 5 years in prison and $5,000 in fines. 

Should a person cause the death of another individual while operating a boat while impaired, they face BUI manslaughter charges. This may be punishable by either a first-degree felony or a second-degree felony, depending on the circumstances of the case. A first-degree felony is punishable by:

  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • A 30-year maximum prison sentence

Meanwhile, a second-degree felony is punishable by:

  • A maximum fine of $10,000
  • Up to fifteen years in prison
Tampa BUI Defense Lawyer

Why You Need an Attorney with Relevant BUI Experience

Though they are similar in nature, defending against BUI arrests requires a different approach than defending against a DUI. It is important to have a Tampa BUI attorney representing you who has actual BUI experience.

When Florida criminal defense attorney Andrew Buda was a prosecutor for Pinellas County, he was a special prosecutor assigned to BUI cases. In fact, he was called the “Fish Prosecutor” in the area for several years. Andrew also conducted BUI-specific ride-along trainings as well as BUI observations with the FWC. He handled hundreds of BUI cases in the Tampa Bay Area and took many to trial. Andrew has also won a number of BUI cases involving the FWC and the local sheriff’s office. He was consulted throughout the years by different police marine units as well as the FWC for his input and thoughts in this very difficult area of the law.

If you’re facing a BUI arrest or conviction, it is imperative that you have someone as skilled and knowledgeable as Andrew Buda of Buda Law on your side. Don’t wait until it’s too late – call Buda Law today.

Tampa BUI Attorney

Call Tampa BUI Defense Attorney Andrew Buda at Buda Law Today

If you are facing BUI charges, make sure your Tampa BUI attorney is capable of defending your best interests and protecting your future. This could be the difference between a successful day for you or a successful day for the prosecutor. At Buda Law, we work tirelessly to use every aspect of the law to get the outcome you are seeking. Facing criminal charges for a BUI? Waiting could cost you your freedom. Schedule a free consultation with a Pinellas and Hillsborough County criminal defense lawyer at Buda Law today and start your attorney-client relationship by calling 813-322-2832 or completing our online intake form here.


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