BUI: BOATING UNDER THE INFLUENCE

As we enter the summer holidays, many people don’t realize that boating under the influence, or “BUI”, is a crime in Florida. The police are stepping up efforts to crack down on boating under the influence. Penalties for boating under the influence include criminal conviction, fines, jail time, and impounding the boat.

So what exactly is boating under the influence? 

State law defines it as “operating a vessel within the waters of this state (Florida)” while:

  • your normal faculties are impaired from drugs or alcohol; or
  • you have a breath or blood alcohol level of .08 or higher.

So this just means being behind the wheel / helm / rudder of a motor-boat while drunk, right?

Not exactly. Florida law also defines “operating a vessel” as being

“in charge of or in command of or in actual physical control of a vessel upon the waters of this state, or to exercise control over or to have responsibility for a vessel’s navigation or safety while the vessel is underway upon the waters of this state, or to control or steer a vessel being towed by another vessel upon the waters of the state.”

So (in theory at least) you could be charged with BUI if you are on the vessel and have “responsibility” for it, or even if you are steering your broken-down boat while it’s being towed in by SeaTow.

Do sailboats count?

Maybe – (warning: legalease ahead) the statutory section that contains the boating under the influence law defines “sailboat” and “vessel” each as separate terms, but the definition of “vessel” is so broad sailboats are likely included. “Vessel” is defined as including “every description of watercraft, barge, and airboat, other than a seaplane on the water, used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water”.

Bottom line: be smart and safe out on the water. If you’re planning on playing the role of captain don’t don’t do it under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If you have any questions or have been charged with boating under the influence, please contact us for a free consultation.