Boating Under the Influence (BUI)

Numerous efforts have been made nationwide to educate people about the dangers of driving under the influence (DUI), but automobiles are from being the only types of recreational vehicles in which an operator under the influence of alcoholic beverages may pose a risk to the general public. With a coastline of 1.350 miles and water accounting for more than 12,000 square miles (or 18.5 percent) of the over 65,000 square miles of total area in the state, boats are incredibly popular in Florida.

Similar to the way in which law enforcement monitors highways and streets throughout the Sunshine State, multiple agencies also patrol the various waterways in Florida. When an alleged offender operates a watercraft while under the influence of alcoholic beverages, a controlled substance, or chemical substance, that person could be arrested for allegedly boating under the influence (BUI).

Attorney for Boating Under the Influence (BUI) Arrests in Pensacola, FL

Were you recently arrested for an alleged BUI offense anywhere the Florida Panhandle? Even if you know that you are innocent, you should still decline to make any statement to authorities until you have legal counsel. Contact The Law Office of James M. Burns as soon as possible.

Pensacola criminal defense lawyer James M. Burns defends clients accused of various drunk driving offenses in communities all over Escambia and Santa Rosa County, such as Milton, Pace, Perdido Key, Navarre, Fort Walton Beach, and many others.

Call (850) 457-6002 right now to have our attorney review your case and discuss all of your legal options during a free initial consultation.


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Overview of Boating Under the Influence (BUI) in Escambia County


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Common BUI Arrest Locations in Pensacola

A person may be arrested for an alleged BUI offense on any one of a number of bodies of water throughout the Florida Panhandle in the areas in and around Escambia County and Santa Rosa County. A few of the most popular locations at which individuals may be taken into custody include, but are not limited to:

  • Gulf Islands National Seashore
  • Perdido Key Beach
  • Perdido Key State Recreation Area
  • Big Lagoon State Park
  • Fort Pickens
  • Pensacola Beach
  • Opal Beach
  • Navarre Beach
  • Naval Live Oaks
  • Johnson Beach
  • Fort McRee
  • Alabama Point
  • Banana Beach
  • Orange Beach Alabama
  • Langdon Beach

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BUI Penalties in Florida

Florida Statute § 327.35(1) establishes that a person commits a BUI offense if he or she operates a vessel—defined as being synonymous with a boat and 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"—within this state and:

  • The person is under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any chemical substance, or any controlled substance when affected to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired;
  • The person has a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood; or
  • The person has a breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.

The consequences of a BUI conviction depend on the number of prior convictions an alleged offender has. Maximum punishments in such cases are generally as follows:

  • First Conviction — Second-Degree Misdemeanor punishable by minimum fine of $500 up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail;
  • Second Conviction — Second-Degree Misdemeanor punishable by minimum fine of $1,000 up to $2,000 and up to nine months in jail;
  • Third Conviction More Than 10 Years After Prior Conviction — Second-Degree Misdemeanor punishable by minimum fine of $2,000 up to $5,000 and up to 12 months in jail;
  • Third Conviction within 10 Years After Prior Conviction — Third-Degree Felony punishable by fine of up to $5,000 andr up to five years in prison; or
  • Fourth or Subsequent Conviction — Third-Degree Felony punishable by a minimum fine of $2,000 and up to five years in prison.

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Enhanced Penalties

It is important to note that if an alleged offender had a blood-alcohol level or breath-alcohol level of 0.15 or higher at the time of the alleged offense, or was accompanied in the vessel by a person under the age of 18 years, can face the following enhanced punishments:

  • First Conviction —Punishable by minimum fine of $1,000 up to $2,000 and up to nine months in jail;
  • Second Conviction — Punishable by minimum fine of $2,000 up to $4,000 and up to 12 months in jail; or
  • Third or Subsequent Conviction — Punishable by a minimum fine of $4,000 and up to five years in prison.

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Pensacola Penalties for BUI Accidents

If an alleged offender commits a BUI violation and, because of such operation, causes or contributes to causing an accident resulting in damage to another party's property or serious bodily to injury or the death of any human being, that individual will face enhanced criminal charges. Such alleged crimes are classified as follows:

  • BUI Causing Damage to Property or Person of Another — First-Degree Misdemeanor punishable by fine of up to $1,000 and up to 12 months in jail;
  • Serious Bodily Injury to Another — Third-Degree Felony punishable by fine of up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison; or
  • Death of Any Human Being — Second-Degree Felony punishable by fine of up to $10,000 and up to 15 years in prison.

BUI offenses that cause death are referred to as BUI manslaughter. If an alleged offender knew at the time of the accident, or should have known, that the accident occurred and failed to give information and render aid as required by Florida Statute § 327.30, BUI manslaughter is a first-degree felony punishable by fine of up to $10,000 and up to 30 years in prison.


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Escambia County BUI Resources

Florida Boating Safety and Education |Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) — The FWC manages and regulates the state's fish and wildlife resources. Visit this section of the FWC website to learn more about boating safety and boater education. You can also access a boating glossary and find answers to boating safety education frequently asked questions.

BUI Initiatives | United States Coast Guard (USCG) Boating Safety — The USCG is a branch of the United States Armed Forces with maritime jurisdiction in both domestic and international waters. On this section of the USCG website, you can find information about the dangers of BUI, the effects of alcohol, and estimating impairment. You can also find tips for avoiding BUI violations.


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The Law Office of James M. Burns Escambia County BUI Defense Lawyer

If you were arrested in Escambia County or Santa Rosa County for an alleged BUI offense, it is in your best interest to seek legal representation immediately. The Law Office of James M. Burns represents residents and visitors in Navarre, Pac, Milton, Fort Walton Beach, Perdido Key, and many other surrounding areas in the Florida Panhandle.

James M. Burns is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Pensacola who can fight to possibly get your criminal charges reduced or dismissed. You can have our lawyer provide a complete evaluation of your case as soon as you call (850) 457-6002 or submit an online contact form to schedule a free, confidential consultation.

This article was last updated on December 21, 2017.