Pasco County Man Charged With Manslaughter and BUI after Brother’s Death

Finebloom, Haenel & Higgins

Jeffery Griffin, also known as Jeremy, was arrested earlier in February for manslaughter and boating under the influence, six months after the death of his brother in a boating accident.  Griffin, a member of a prominent Pasco County political family, allegedly hit a marker with his boat over Labor Day weekend.  His younger brother, Joshua Griffin, was thrown from the boat.  Another passenger said that she blacked out when the boat hit the marker and when she woke up, Jeremy Griffin was pulling his brother out of the water.  It is believed that Joshua Griffin struck the marker during the accident and sustained blunt force trauma.  They then took the boat to shore where they met first responders and Joshua  was pronounced dead at the scene.  A blood sample taken by medical personnel three hours after the crash showed that Jeffery Griffin had a blood alcohol content of 0.093%, over the legal limit for a charge of boating under the influence. 

In Florida, boating while under the influence is not allowed, just as driving under the influence is not allowed.  They have very similar penalties for those who are caught.  As with a DUI, people who have a blood alcohol content of over .08% (.02% for those under 21) can be charged with BUI.  The sentences for BUI are nearly identical to those for DUI with a fine of $500-$1000 and up to six months in jail for a first offense for someone who has a BAC between .08% and .15%.  However, one main difference is that there is no effect on a driver's license. 

Refusing to take a breathalyzer or other test to determine intoxication is also not allowed for those who are suspected of boating under the influence, although those who refuse face a different penalty.  Rather than the fine and loss of a driver's license that someone who refuses a breathalyzer when suspected of DUI can face, someone who is boating under the influence faces a $500 fine.

The penalties for a manslaughter conviction are the same for someone who is under the influence while boating as they are for someone under the influence while driving. When someone is boating while under the influence and someone dies as a result, they will also face a fine of up to $10,000 and 15 years in prison. 

Finally, as with driving while under the influence, someone who is boating under the influence can also be charged when they have not been drinking but are under the influence of drugs, even those legally taken or sold over the counter. 

Unlike accidents due to driving while intoxicated, boating while intoxicated cases can be somewhat more difficult to investigate.  With a car accident, evidence such as accident debris or skid marks is pretty evident after the accident takes place.  However, because of the nature of a boating accident, debris can sink and determining things like speed at the time of the accident can be difficult.