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The Law Office of Lee Meadows has over 41 years experience assisting people needing guidance about Potential BUI Penalties.


Each BUI case is different and experience counts.

Florida is a boater’s paradise and is home to some of the strictest marine law enforcement in the country. Law enforcement agencies are allowed to randomly stop and inspect vessels without the same type of probable cause needed to stop you in your car. Florida waters are very broadly defined; it covers any waters within Florida and any waters if the boat was leaving Florida or coming to Florida. Florida’s territorial boundaries are measured 3 nautical miles into the Atlantic or Gulf Stream and 9 nautical miles out into the Gulf of Mexico.

Officers who stop vessels may:

  • Inspect for the required safety equipment such as life jackets, flares, and working navigation lights

  • Check fishing permits, registration certificates

  • Check bag and size limits


Once a vessel has been stopped, law enforcement must follow strict procedures to determine if the vessel is safe or if the owner/operator is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.


If a U.S. Coast Guard officer has reason to believe a boater is BUI, that Coast Guard officer can hand that boater over to the local police.

Penalties for BUI



Offenders, if convicted, face stiff fines, possible jail time and the consequences of having a DUI charge on their record.

Florida Boating under the Influence (“BUI”) cases charged under Florida Statute Section 327.35(1) are treated seriously, in part, because Florida leads the nation in the yearly number of boating deaths. Studies indicate that one-third of all recreational boating fatalities involve the use of alcohol. In more than one-half of these cases, the victim either fell overboard or capsized the boat.

If you have been charged with BUI or boating under the influence, you can expect the case to be aggressively prosecuted. The good news is that a BUI arrest does not always lead to a conviction. In many of these cases, the charges are dropped altogether or reduced to another charge that is far less serious than BUI.


An arrest for boating under the influence or drunk boating (BUI) in Florida can lead to a criminal record, probation, possible incarceration, fines, court costs, community service, alcohol courses, and your boat being impounded.


For purposes of enhancement of criminal penalties and administrative driver license suspensions in a subsequent Florida DUI case, BUI counts as a prior conviction for driving under the influence (DUI). Likewise, if you have previously been convicted of DUI, your BUI sentence can be enhanced as provided below.



Law enforcement officers that investigate a BUI case must often make a judgment call about whether to arrest a boater. Drinking alcohol and then driving a boat is not illegal.

The crime of BUI is committed only when the driver has consumed enough alcohol to be in excess of the legal limit of 0.08 (per se BUI) or when the driver’s normal faculties are impaired due to alcohol intoxication. When making these difficult judgment calls, law enforcement officers often make mistakes.

From the BUI officer’s perspective, a boat is a vehicle that requires safe operation. The safe operation of a boat is hampered when the boater is under the influence of alcohol or drugs (BUI). The problem of drug or alcohol impairment is compounded for operators of boats because they are typically far less experienced on the water than driving a vehicle.

The lack of boating experience, combined with distractions that can occur while boating, including other boaters, weather conditions, and sea sickness can intensify the effects of drugs or alcohol while boating. Additionally, a boat operator’s impairment can be intensified by the marine environment, including wind, sun, engine noise, motion, and vibrations.



Although it is not illegal to consume an alcoholic beverage before operating a boat, it is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Under Florida law, Florida Statute Section 327.35(1), a BUI arrest can occur when either your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08% or higher, or the law enforcement officer suspects that your normal faculties are impaired due to intoxication or drug impairment. For persons under the age of 21 who operate a boat in Florida the legal limit is 0.02%.

The Coast Guard also enforces a federal law that prohibits BUI. Effective January 13, 1988, boating under the influence (BUI) became a specific federal offense. Boating under the influence arrests made off the U.S. shorelines of Florida are under the jurisdiction of federal authorities.

An arrest for Boating Under the Influence (BUI) closer to the shore, or on lakes and rivers are typically made by Florida law enforcement officers and are prosecuted in Florida state courts.

Individuals charged with Boating Under the Influence (BUI) in Florida, under either state or federal law, face stiff punishments and minimum mandatory sentences which can include jail time, fines, boat impoundment and forfeiture, community service requirements, and the loss of your driver’s license.

Florida laws and federal laws against BUI pertain to all different types of boats (from canoes, rowboats to yachts and even the largest ships) and includes foreign vessels that operate in U.S. waters, as well as U.S. vessels on the high seas.


Law enforcement officers with the Coast Guard, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, sheriff’s deputies of the various counties in Florida, and any other authorized enforcement officer, have the authority to enforce boating safety laws, cause an inspection of a vessel, and require the removal of a boat deemed to be a hazard to public safety.

A law enforcement officer may stop any vessel for the purpose of checking for compliance with boating safety equipment requirements, whether it is numbered, unnumbered or documented. Law enforcement agencies have the right to conduct a stop of the boat for the purpose of investigating whether the operator of the boat is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Legal Cause to Stop the Boat

BUI officers can conduct the stop when they have probable cause to believe a boat is violating a regulation or speeding. In certain cases, the BUI officers can stop a boat for a random inspection related to an equipment check, fishing compliance or safety registration.

The officer can ask the operator of the boat to perform a hand-held breath test or complete a series of sobriety exercises, or chemical tests of the boater’s blood, breath or urine.

Prior or Subsequent Record

For purposes of enhancement of criminal penalties and administrative driver license suspensions in a subsequent Florida DUI case, BUI counts as a prior conviction for driving under the influence (DUI). Likewise, if you have previously been convicted of DUI, your BUI sentence can be enhanced as provided below.




Pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 327.35, Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is illegal in the State of Florida. At trial, BUI must be proven in one of these ways:

  1. When the person who operated a boat within the State of Florida is under the influence of alcoholic beverages or a chemical substance when affected to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired; or

  2. When the person has a blood-alcohol level (BAL) of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood; or

  3. When the person has a breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.


The sentence can be enhanced if the operator of the boat has previously been convicted of BUI, DUI, DWI (or any other similar alcohol-related or drug-related offense) in the State of Florida, or in any other state.

Any conviction for BUI would include probation with a special condition that the defendant completes a substance abuse course which may include evaluation and any recommended follow up treatment, at least 50 hours of community service, and at least ten-day impoundment or immobilization of the boat or vessel.

BUI Causing or Contributing to Serious Bodily Injury to Another (Felony in the Third Degree)


Second Degree – BUI Manslaughter – BUI Causing or Contributing to Death can be charged as a Felony in the Second Degree punishable by up to fifteen (15) years in Florida State Prison.


First Degree- BUI Manslaughter – BUI Causing or Contributing to Death has the same elements as BUI Manslaughter in the Second Degree except that the operator of the boat also at the time of the accident, knew or should have known that the accident occurred (although it is not necessary that the operator know that the accident resulting in injury or death) and failed to give information or render aid.

Residential Alcohol Treatment In Lieu of Imprisonment


Florida law provides, the court has the power allow the defendant to serve all or any portion of a term of imprisonment to which the defendant has been sentenced pursuant to this section in a residential alcoholism treatment program or a residential drug abuse treatment program. Any time spent in such a program must be credited by the court toward the term of imprisonment.

Related Charges for Boating Under the Influence (BUI)


  • Boating Under the Influence (BUI), Florida Statute Section 327.35(1);

  • Boating Under the Influence Causing Property Damage or Injury, Florida Statute Section 327.35(3)(a)(b)(c)(1);

  • Felony Boating Under the Influence, Florida Statute Section 327.35(2)(b)(1); or 327(2)(b)(3);

  • Felony Boating Under the Influence, Section 327.35(3)(a)(b)(c)(2)


For More Information Please Visit:


” I am very grateful that Mr.Meadows was able to get my DUI dismissed. He was very professional. With my case result, he helped me keep my job. I recommend Mr.Meadows highly.”

I.M., Tallahassee, Florida



(850) 224-8873

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