Boating Under the Influence Charges Can Lead to Serious Penalties
Did you get arrested or charged for boating under the influence (BUI) in Pensacola? Are you facing serious consequences and don’t know what to do next? If so, contact The Morris Firm, and we’ll build a solid defense on your behalf and work to get the charges against you dropped or reduced.
Pensacola is a city that stretches across Escambia County and Santa Rosa County in the Florida panhandle. It’s home to beautiful beaches and waterways, making it the perfect place for boating. Given the popularity of boating in the region, law enforcement teams aggressively monitor the waters for any signs of boating under the influence. If you’re arrested for BUI, you could be facing serious consequences, including jail time.
Don’t face your BUI alone. Call The Morris Firm at (850) 503-2626 to speak with an experienced Pensacola BUI defense attorney about your legal rights and options.
Boating Under the Influence Is Dangerous
Even though it isn’t illegal to drink on a boat, it’s illegal to operate one with a blood alcohol concentration that exceeds the legal limit. You might think you can safely maneuver the vessel on wide-open water with only a couple of drinks in your system, but conditions can rapidly change and leave you in a dangerous situation.
BUI Laws in Florida
According to Florida Statute § 327.35, you could face a BUI charge if you’re operating a watercraft and:
- You’re under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, chemical substance, or controlled substances that impair your normal faculties.
- You have a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 grams or higher per 100 milliliters of blood
- You have a breath-alcohol level of 0.08 grams or higher per 210 liters of breath
Penalties for Boating Under the Influence
If you get convicted of BUI, it can upend your entire life. You may face challenges, such as finding employment and applying for higher education. A conviction could also end up on your criminal record and result in harsher penalties for future offenses.
The penalty you could potentially face will depend on a variety of factors, such as:
- Your BAC at the time of the alleged offense
- If you have prior BUI or DUI convictions
- If anyone on the boat was under the age of 18
- If your impairment caused an accident, resulting in injury, fatality, or property damage
A first-time BUI charge could result in a second-degree misdemeanor charge and the following penalties:
- Up to a $1,000 fine
- A maximum of six months in jail
- 50 hours of community service
A second BUI charge is still a second-degree misdemeanor, but with harsher penalties:
- Up to nine months in jail
- $2,000 fine
If you get arrested for a third BUI within ten years of a prior BUI or DUI (driving under the influence) conviction, you could get charged with a third-degree felony, which comes with the following penalties:
- Up to five years in prison
- $5,000 in fines
For BUI that leads to a fatality, you could face the following penalties:
- Second-degree BUI manslaughter: Up to fifteen years in prison for BUI resulting in death
- First-degree BUI manslaughter for BUI resulting in death and the operator failed to notify law enforcement or didn’t attempt to provide medical care: Up to thirty years in prison
Along with time behind bars and expensive fines, there are other punishments you could potentially face if you get convicted of BUI. Probation is necessary for up to one year for a first-time offense and increases with each conviction. You must also complete 50 hours of community service.
It’s also a possibility that you’ll have to attend counseling for substance abuse. Depending on the number of prior convictions, your boat may also get impounded for at least ten days.
Defenses Against BUI Charges
If you get arrested for BUI, you’ll need an experienced Pensacola BUI defense attorney to help you prepare your case. The Morris Firm understands state statutes and the legal process to follow to prove your innocence or get your charges reduced. There are different strategies we could use to fight a BUI charge that is common in DUI cases. However, fighting a BUI charge is more complicated because many arresting officers are inexperienced, which allows mistakes to happen.
Field Sobriety Test
Unlike Field Sobriety Tests administered during a potential DUI arrest, it’s difficult to perform testing on a boat operator. Many tests occur while the boater is sitting down on their vessel. It’s possible to invalidate the results and question the reliability of the location of the test.
We can review the results of your blood-alcohol concentration. BAC devices are not always reliable. There are margins of error we’ll have to evaluate to determine if the results were accurate. If we can find a defect or conflicting evidence, we could potentially suppress this evidence during your trial.
Law Enforcement Reliability
Members of law enforcement are human beings. They make mistakes too. If you undergo a blood or breath test, there’s a specific procedure the officer must follow to ensure credible results. If they didn’t follow proper protocol, it could invalidate the testing.
Watercraft Stops and Checkpoints
BUI investigations typically begin because law enforcement stops a suspicious boat, or there’s a checkpoint set up. If they illegally stopped you, any evidence they obtained could get suppressed. We could even try to get your whole case dismissed.
Why You Need to Hire an Experienced Pensacola BUI Defense Attorney
The most common mistake people make after a BUI arrest is choosing to go with a public defender rather than a reputable law firm. While public defenders have experience and are capable of handling your case, they’re often overworked and don’t have the time to review all the details. They could miss important information that could get your case dismissed because they lack the resources to complete a thorough investigation.
At The Morris Firm, we have extensive resources at our disposal and a dedicated team to ensure we cover all our bases and perform an adequate investigation of your BUI charge. When you hire us, we’ll look into every relevant detail and obtain crucial evidence to prove you didn’t commit the alleged crime.
Some of the evidence we’ll need to find includes:
- Witness statements
- Blood and breath test results
- Police reports
- Photos and video surveillance
We can handle every aspect of your case, so you don’t have to worry. You won’t be alone during this ordeal. We know you’re stressed about the potential penalties you could face if you get convicted. It’s our goal to avoid trial altogether by getting your case dismissed. If we have to go to trial, we’ll use aggressive tactics to fight against the prosecutor and disprove their theory.
What Are My Rights?
Even if you get arrested for BUI, you still have certain rights known as Miranda Rights. Under those rights, you have the right to:
- Remain silent
- Consult an attorney and have them present during questions
- An appointed attorney by the state if you can’t afford your own
- Refuse to answer law enforcement’s questions at any time
In Florida, Implied Consent requires a boat operator to submit to a chemical test so the officer can determine their level of intoxication. If you refuse to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test, you will be required to pay a $500 civil fine. If you don’t pay the fine within 30 days, you could be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor resulting in a maximum of one year in jail.
Why Choose The Morris Firm?
The Pensacola BUI defense attorney you hire from The Morris Firm will make you a priority. We care about our clients and want to defend you to the best of our ability. We use our experience, knowledge, and skills to provide dependable legal representation. You can trust that we’ll work to protect your rights and ensure fair treatment throughout your case.
Our team is available 24/7, so you can speak with us when you need us. We believe in keeping the lines of communication open at all times so you can ask questions or get the status of your case. We take the time to get to know each client we work with, so we’re able to provide personalized service and create a plan that meets your needs.
Our Pensacola BUI defense attorney offers a free case evaluation, so you can meet with us at no risk. We’ll review the details of your BUI charge and determine if we can take your case. If you choose to hire us, we’ll immediately begin working on your case to reach a resolution efficiently.
Whether you’re guilty or innocent, we will do whatever it takes to get the charges reduced or dropped. We understand how a criminal conviction can impact your life. It can affect your family, reputation within your community, job, and future. We want to help you secure your freedom so you can rebuild your life and move forward as soon as possible.
If you’re facing BUI charges and need assistance from an experienced law firm, call The Morris Firm at (850) 503-2626.