In Florida, and especially Key West, there are ample opportunities to take to the water and spend the day at sea. Many times, this type of outing involves alcohol, and when mixed with boating, the results can be similar to those when a person drinks and then drives a car. Just like alcohol can impair a driver’s ability to operate a car, the same can be said of someone who is drinking while behind the wheel of a boat. When you are pulled over and arrested for drinking and driving, the charge is a DUI, but when a boat is involved, the crime is referred to as a Boating Under the Influence. In both cases, it is important to aggressively defend the charges against you, but there are some differences between the two types of charges that might affect what type of defense strategy you decide to use.
The BUI statute defines a BUI as an event where an operator of a vessel is doing so while under the influence of alcohol or a substance that impairs the operator’s mental faculties. And, like a DUI, the BAC level for a BUI is 0.08%. But, here are some major differences between a DUI and a BUI that should be taken into consideration if you are charged with BUI:
• Who is the operator? With an automobile it is usually pretty clear who was driving, but on a boat most of the occupants take turns at the wheel and this can make it hard to pinpoint who was driving and when.
• Is probable cause a requirement? With a traffic stop, many of which can lead to a DUI arrest if the officer initiating the stop has cause to believe the driver has been drinking, reasonable suspicion is necessary. But with a BUI, there is no such requirement. An officer can board a boating vessel at any time. This is because there are extra precautions that must be taken when boating, such as having enough life jackets on board for every passenger, which gives an officer the right to stop a boat and make a safety check.
• Are the punishments for refusing to submit to a breath or blood test the same with BUI? No, the punishment is not the same in the two types of cases and that is because with a DUI a refusal can result in loss of your driver’s license, but with a BUI the punishment for refusal is imposition of a monetary fine.
Of course there are other differences between a DUI and a BUI, and it is important to partner with a defense attorney that knows the distinctions. The facts of your case will dictate the way you defend the charges, and we can help.
If you have questions about boating and drinking, call our office for answers. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney in Key West.