Boating under the influence: What operators need to know

Florida is famous for many things, including seemingly endless rivers, lakes and canals. The state provides numerous opportunities to have fun in motorized boats and personal watercraft. 

Boaters should understand the rules and regulations before heading out on the water. Florida has speed restrictions, life jacket requirements and other safety guidelines. One law of particular importance is about boating under the influence of alcohol. 

Definition 

BUI laws are similar to laws about driving under the influence. Boat operators must not possess a blood-alcohol level or breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or higher. If the operator is under 21 years old, the BAC threshold goes down to 0.02. It is a violation of the law to operate a boat while impaired due to any controlled substance or prescription medication. 

Penalties

Boaters convicted of BUI face stiff penalties. A first offense carries a fine of $500-1,000 and a jail sentence of up to six months. Courts may require first-time offenders to complete 50 hours of community service. 

For a second offense, the fine doubles and imprisonment goes up to nine months. A third violation within 10 years is a felony. 

Sentences are harsher under certain circumstances. If boat operators injure someone or cause damage to property, punishment may be severe. 

Other stipulations

Florida law does not require boater licenses, so operators convicted of BUI do not have to worry about license suspension. However, refusal to submit to blood-alcohol testing can result in a fine. Furthermore, such refusal can have ramifications in future BUI stops. Boaters convicted of BUI may also face harsher penalties in DUI situations. 

Florida wants boaters to enjoy the water safely. Preventing boaters from operating vessels while impaired is crucial to that effort.