Florida is full of opportunities to take to the beaches, and spend time on the water. Many times this includes driving a boat or other watercraft, and often times alcohol is involved when people gather to participate in these types of recreational activities. So it is only natural to wonder if you can get “pulled over” for boating under the influence and if so, if this type of case is similar to a DUI case. While some of the elements of a DUI are also present in a BUI (boating under the influence), there are some differences that you need to know if your plans involve water related activities.

The BUI statute defines a BUI as an incident where a boat or watercraft is being operated by a person with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or more. This is the same legal limit that we see in DUI cases, but here are three things that have to be examined in a BUI case are not also present with DUI’s:

  • With a DUI it is usually pretty clear who is driving, but with boats it can be a little bit more difficult to determine. This is because most groups that go out boating take turns behind the wheel, and if there is an accident or a question as to whether the driver is under the influence, it is possible that the authorities are not able to tell who was actually operating the boat.
  • With a DUI there are consequences to not taking the breath test, but this is not the same with a BUI. If you refuse the breath test with a DUI, you can lose your driver’s license. But, with a BUI the consequence is a monetary fine, without possible loss of your license. This is a huge difference between the two cases and might make the decision on whether to take a breath test easier.
  • With a DUI the officer that makes the stop must have a reasonable suspicion that the driver is under the influence in order to make the stop, but that is not true with BUI cases. The authorities are permitted to board a vessel for most any reason, because water safety is at issue and it may be necessary to check that certain safety precautions are being taken.

There are other differences that may arise in your case, and the best way to handle a BUI is by having a qualified defense attorney take on your case. If you have been charged with BUI, call us for help. We have experience with DUI cases as well as BUI’s and will aggressively pursue remedies that work for you.


For more information about BUI’s and DUI’s, call an experienced defense attorney in Stuart and the Treasure Coast. We offer an initial consultation for no charge, and look forward to working with you.