Boating Under the Influence Defense


Christian Van Riper


Timothy C. Nies





"Wouldn't it be comforting to know that your BUI defense attorney is a former BUI & DUI Prosecutor?"

Van Riper & Nies Attorneys leave no stone unturned when fighting for the rights of our clients accused of boating under the influence.


Our maritime criminal defense attorneys, Christian Van Riper and Timothy Nies are skilled criminal defense attorneys. Christian is a former DUI and BUI prosecutor for the State of Florida. Christian is a passionate boater and knows the waterways of Martin and St. Lucie counties well.  Timothy, a former U.S. Army Ranger, is a former insurance company trial attorney, and member of the Maritime Law Association of the U.S. Our attorneys are uniquely qualified BUI defense attorneys.  

Florida laws governing the operation of a boats and personal watercraft while under the influence of alcohol are similar to the DUI laws for operation of motor vehicles. To be found guilty of a Boating Under the Influence Charge (BUI), the prosecutor, must prove that the operator of the boat or personal watercraft (WaveRunner, Seadoo, etc.):

  • Has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater (.02% for operators under 21); or
  • Impaired mental/physical abilities due to alcohol or any controlled substance.

Being arrested and charged with a BUI is a serious charge.  If convicted, it will count as a prior DUI on any subsequent DUI offense you may be charged with.  Boat operators under  21 will be arrested and charged with a BUI if their if their BAC (breath or blood alcohol level) level is higher than .02%.

For any person who is convicted of boating under the influence with a BAC of .15 or higher, or if at the time the offense was accompanied in the boat or on the personal watercraft by a person under 17 or younger, shall be punished by a fine or not less than $1,000 for a first conviction and by imprisonment for up to 9 months.

When faced with a Boating Under the Influence charge, hiring a skilled and experienced maritime criminal defense attorney is essential if you wish to protect your rights under and avoid such legal penalties as jail time, significant monetary fines, suspension of your driver's license, community service, probation, restitution (if someone was injured in an accident), mandatory alcohol-awareness courses, impoundment of your boat or personal watercraft, and more.   In addition, an experienced and trial-savvy BUI defense lawyer can stand up to the prosecution and aggressively fight your charges throughout the BUI process.

For more information about our criminal defense firm, and for a free consultation concerning your BUI case, call Christian Van Riper at 772-283-8712 day or night, complete the contact form below or email us at vanriper01@yahoo.com. 

Van Riper & Nies Attorneys, P.A.
900 SE Ocean Boulevard #140-E
Stuart, FL 34994
Tel: 772-283-8712

By Tim Nies


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Stuart FL Boating Under the Influence Criminal Defense Lawyers: Van Riper and Nies. Our maritime criminal defense attorneys, in Stuart, Florida, represent boaters accused of operating their boats or waverunners while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Stuart Criminal Lawyers: Law Offices of Van Riper and Nies Attorneys. Fort Pierce, FL BUI Defense Attorneys.

Martin County maritime criminal defense attorneys, Van Riper and Nies, represent clients accused of operating their boat or personal watercraft drunk in Port St. Lucie, Stuart, Fort Pierce, Jupiter, Jensen Beach and throughout Martin, St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties. Laws on DUI on a boat. Deerfield Beach FL Attorneys: Criminal Defense and Personal Injury Law. Difference between a DUI and a BUI in Florida.

Criminal Defense and Personal Injury Lawyers in West Palm Beach and Deerfield Beach FL:
Van Riper and Nies Attorneys, P.A. 

Our attorneys aggressively defend our clients accused of operating their boat while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Florida and Maritime Criminal Defense Lawyers:
Admiralty and Maritime Attorneys. Maritime law on drinking and boating. Law in Florida on Drinking and Boating is very similar to the laws on drinking and driving. Sentence for BUI in Florida.

Florida Statutes on Boating under the Influence:
 
327.35 Boating under the influence; penalties; “designated drivers”.
(1) A person is guilty of the offense of boating under the influence and is subject to punishment as provided in subsection (2) if the person is operating a vessel within this state and:
(a) The person is under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any chemical substance set forth in s. 877.111, or any substance controlled under chapter 893, when affected to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired;
(b) The person has a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood; or
(c) The person has a breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.
(2)(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b), subsection (3), or subsection (4), any person who is convicted of a violation of subsection (1) shall be punished:
1. By a fine of:
a. Not less than $500 or more than $1,000 for a first conviction.
b. Not less than $1,000 or more than $2,000 for a second conviction; and
2. By imprisonment for:
a. Not more than 6 months for a first conviction.
b. Not more than 9 months for a second conviction.
(b)1. Any person who is convicted of a third violation of this section for an offense that occurs within 10 years after a prior conviction for a violation of this section commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
2. Any person who is convicted of a third violation of this section for an offense that occurs more than 10 years after the date of a prior conviction for a violation of this section shall be punished by a fine of not less than $2,000 or more than $5,000 and by imprisonment for not more than 12 months.
3. Any person who is convicted of a fourth or subsequent violation of this section, regardless of when any prior conviction for a violation of this section occurred, commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

However, the fine imposed for such fourth or subsequent violation may not be less than $2,000.

(3) Any person:
(a) Who is in violation of subsection (1);
(b) Who operates a vessel; and
(c) Who, by reason of such operation, causes or contributes to causing:
1. Damage to the property or person of another commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
2. Serious bodily injury to another, as defined in s. 327.353, commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
3. The death of any human being commits BUI manslaughter, and commits:
a. A felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
b. A felony of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084, if:
(I) At the time of the accident, the person knew, or should have known, that the accident occurred; and
(II) The person failed to give information and render aid as required by s. 327.30.

This sub-subparagraph does not require that the person knew that the accident resulted in injury or death.

(4) Any person who is convicted of a violation of subsection (1) and who has a blood-alcohol level or breath-alcohol level of 0.15 or higher, or any person who is convicted of a violation of subsection (1) and who at the time of the offense was accompanied in the vessel by a person under the age of 18 years, shall be punished:
(a) By a fine of:
1. Not less than $1,000 or more than $2,000 for a first conviction.
2. Not less than $2,000 or more than $4,000 for a second conviction.
3. Not less than $4,000 for a third or subsequent conviction.
(b) By imprisonment for:
1. Not more than 9 months for a first conviction.
2. Not more than 12 months for a second conviction.

For the purposes of this subsection, only the instant offense is required to be a violation of subsection (1) by a person who has a blood-alcohol level or breath-alcohol level of 0.15 or higher.

(5) In addition to any sentence or fine, the court shall place any offender convicted of violating this section on monthly reporting probation and shall require attendance at a substance abuse course specified by the court; and the agency conducting the course may refer the offender to an authorized service provider for substance abuse evaluation and treatment, in addition to any sentence or fine imposed under this section. The offender shall assume reasonable costs for such education, evaluation, and treatment, with completion of all such education, evaluation, and treatment being a condition of reporting probation. Treatment resulting from a psychosocial evaluation may not be waived without a supporting psychosocial evaluation conducted by an agency appointed by the court and with access to the original evaluation. The offender shall bear the cost of this procedure. The term “substance abuse” means the abuse of alcohol or any substance named or described in Schedules I-V of s. 893.03.
(6) With respect to any person convicted of a violation of subsection (1), regardless of any other penalty imposed:
(a) For the first conviction, the court shall place the defendant on probation for a period not to exceed 1 year and, as a condition of such probation, shall order the defendant to participate in public service or a community work project for a minimum of 50 hours. The court must also, as a condition of probation, order the impoundment or immobilization of the vessel that was operated by or in the actual control of the defendant or any one vehicle registered in the defendant’s name at the time of impoundment or immobilization, for a period of 10 days or for the unexpired term of any lease or rental agreement that expires within 10 days. The impoundment or immobilization must not occur concurrently with the incarceration of the defendant. The impoundment or immobilization order may be dismissed in accordance with paragraph (e) or paragraph (f). The total period of probation and incarceration may not exceed 1 year.
(b) For the second conviction for an offense that occurs within a period of 5 years after the date of a prior conviction for violation of this section, the court shall order imprisonment for not less than 10 days. The court must also, as a condition of probation, order the impoundment or immobilization of the vessel that was operated by or in the actual control of the defendant or any one vehicle registered in the defendant’s name at the time of impoundment or immobilization, for a period of 30 days or for the unexpired term of any lease or rental agreement that expires within 30 days. The impoundment or immobilization must not occur concurrently with the incarceration of the defendant. The impoundment or immobilization order may be dismissed in accordance with paragraph (e) or paragraph (f). At least 48 hours of confinement must be consecutive.
(c) For the third or subsequent conviction for an offense that occurs within a period of 10 years after the date of a prior conviction for violation of this section, the court shall order imprisonment for not less than 30 days. The court must also, as a condition of probation, order the impoundment or immobilization of the vessel that was operated by or in the actual control of the defendant or any one vehicle registered in the defendant’s name at the time of impoundment or immobilization, for a period of 90 days or for the unexpired term of any lease or rental agreement that expires within 90 days. The impoundment or immobilization must not occur concurrently with the incarceration of the defendant. The impoundment or immobilization order may be dismissed in accordance with paragraph (e) or paragraph (f). At least 48 hours of confinement must be consecutive.
(d) The court must at the time of sentencing the defendant issue an order for the impoundment or immobilization of a vessel. Within 7 business days after the date that the court issues the order of impoundment, and once again 30 business days before the actual impoundment or immobilization of the vessel, the clerk of the court must send notice by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the registered owner of each vessel, if the registered owner is a person other than the defendant, and to each person of record claiming a lien against the vessel.
(e) A person who owns but was not operating the vessel when the offense occurred may submit to the court a police report indicating that the vessel was stolen at the time of the offense or documentation of having purchased the vessel after the offense was committed from an entity other than the defendant or the defendant’s agent. If the court finds that the vessel was stolen or that the sale was not made to circumvent the order and allow the defendant continued access to the vessel, the order must be dismissed and the owner of the vessel will incur no costs. If the court denies the request to dismiss the order of impoundment or immobilization, the petitioner may request an evidentiary hearing.
(f) A person who owns but was not operating the vessel when the offense occurred, and whose vessel was stolen or who purchased the vessel after the offense was committed directly from the defendant or the defendant’s agent, may request an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the impoundment or immobilization should occur. If the court finds that either the vessel was stolen or the purchase was made without knowledge of the offense, that the purchaser had no relationship to the defendant other than through the transaction, and that such purchase would not circumvent the order and allow the defendant continued access to the vessel, the order must be dismissed and the owner of the vessel will incur no costs.
(g) All costs and fees for the impoundment or immobilization, including the cost of notification, must be paid by the owner of the vessel or, if the vessel is leased or rented, by the person leasing or renting the vessel, unless the impoundment or immobilization order is dismissed.
(h) The person who owns a vessel that is impounded or immobilized under this paragraph, or a person who has a lien of record against such a vessel and who has not requested a review of the impoundment pursuant to paragraph (e) or paragraph (f), may, within 10 days after the date that person has knowledge of the location of the vessel, file a complaint in the county in which the owner resides to determine whether the vessel was wrongfully taken or withheld from the owner or lienholder. Upon the filing of a complaint, the owner or lienholder may have the vessel released by posting with the court a bond or other adequate security equal to the amount of the costs and fees for impoundment or immobilization, including towing or storage, to ensure the payment of the costs and fees if the owner or lienholder does not prevail. When the bond is posted and the fee is paid as set forth in s. 28.24, the clerk of the court shall issue a certificate releasing the vessel. At the time of release, after reasonable inspection, the owner or lienholder must give a receipt to the towing or storage company indicating any loss or damage to the vessel or to the contents of the vessel.
(i) A defendant, in the court’s discretion, may be required 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.

For the purposes of this section, any conviction for a violation of s. 316.193, a previous conviction for the violation of former s. 316.1931, former s. 860.01, or former s. 316.028, or a previous conviction outside this state for driving under the influence, driving while intoxicated, driving with an unlawful blood-alcohol level, driving with an unlawful breath-alcohol level, or any other similar alcohol-related or drug-related traffic offense, is also considered a previous conviction for violation of this section.

(7) A conviction under this section does not bar any civil suit for damages against the person so convicted.
(8) A person who is arrested for a violation of this section may not be released from custody:
(a) Until the person is no longer under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any chemical substance set forth in s. 877.111, or any substance controlled under chapter 893 and affected to the extent that his or her normal faculties are impaired;
(b) Until the person’s blood-alcohol level or breath-alcohol level is less than 0.05; or
(c) Until 8 hours have elapsed from the time the person was arrested.
(9) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, for any person convicted of a violation of subsection (1), in addition to the fines set forth in subsections (2) and (4), an additional fine of $60 shall be assessed and collected in the same manner as the fines set forth in subsections (2) and (4). All fines collected under this subsection shall be remitted by the clerk of the court to the Department of Revenue for deposit into the Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Program Trust Fund and used for the purposes set forth in s. 381.79, after 5 percent is deducted therefrom by the clerk of the court for administrative costs.
(10) It is the intent of the Legislature to encourage boaters to have a “designated driver” who does not consume alcoholic beverages.

 

 

 

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