State of Florida Stages Operation to Fight Boating Under the Influence

Finebloom, Haenel & Higgins

On the last weekend in June, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, or FWC, participated in Operation Dry Water, meant to crack down on those who operate boats while under the influence.  The operation increased the number of officers searching for those who were possibly boating while under the influence and was meant to not only catch those who were boating while drunk, but also bring attention to the problem of BUI.  According to the FWC, 15% of all boating fatalities that took place in Florida in 2013 had to do with the boat’s operator being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  The operation, which takes place in states nationwide, takes place the weekend before the Fourth of July to bring more attention to the issue before the popular boating weekend.

Boating under the influence laws in Florida are very similar to driving under the influence laws in how offenders are caught and some types of sentences they can face.  Like for someone who is driving under the influence, someone who boats cannot have a BAC of over .08 for those over 21 and .02 for those under age.  Also similar to driving is that Florida is an implied consent state when it comes to taking a breathalyzer when ordered, although someone who refuses a breathalyzer for a BUI does not face loss of their driver’s license, but rather a fine.

Also similar is the punishment for BUI.  A first time offender can face up to 6 months in jail and a $500 fine.  People who have later offenses will have heavier sentences, with the heaviest being for those who have four or more BUI offenses being guilty of a third-degree felony that can carry up to 5 years in prison and a fine that cannot be less than $2,000.  There are also heavy penalties for boating under the influence and causing property damage, injury or death.

One major difference in the penalties between DUI and BUI has to do with driver’s license suspension.  With DUI convictions, there are driver’s license revocations, the length of which varies depending on the number of offenses someone has.  With a BUI, however, someone does not need a special license to operate a watercraft and there is no license to suspend.