Can I be arrested for drinking while driving a boat in Jupiter Florida?

Boating is a popular year-round activity here in Palm Beach County, Florida. With summer coming up, the number of people enjoying the beautiful waterways of South Florida will only increase. 


It’s crucial that if you plan on boating in Jupiter, West Palm Beach, or any of the other popular local spots you thoroughly understand the rules and regulations of our waterways. That includes drinking while driving a boat. 


It may come as a surprise, but just like driving a car, it is illegal to operate a boating vessel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In short, this is commonly referred to as a ‘BUI’, or Boating Under the Influence. 


DUI on a boat in Florida


First, it is important to establish what constitutes as ‘Boating Under the Influence’ of alcohol or drugs. In Florida, a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher is considered legally impaired to drive a boat. This is the same unlawful BAC for driving a motor vehicle in South Florida. However, you must know that even if your blood alcohol concentration is below the legal 0.08% limit, it is still possible to be charged with Boating Under the Influence (BUI) if your ability to operate the boat is impaired.  


Can I drive and drink my boat?


You may be wondering now if it is against the law to drive a boat and drink at all. It actually is not illegal to consume alcohol while on or operating a boat as long as you are of age. The key difference here is that it is illegal to drive a boat in Palm Beach Florida with a BAC of 0.08% or higher, or while you are otherwise under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This law only applies if the driver is of legal drinking age. Anyone under 21 years of age who is found to have a blood alcohol level of 0.02% or higher while operating a boat in Florida is breaking the law.

It’s important to remember that alcohol can impair judgment, reaction time, and the overall ability to operate a boat safely. The hot Florida sun and salty ocean breeze can also amplify the effects of alcohol, making it even more dangerous to drink and drive a boat. 


Is there an open container law for boats in Jupiter Florida


Since it is legal to drink on a boat in Jupiter Florida, there are no open container laws. The only law is the driver can not operate the boat with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or above, or 0.02% if the driver is below the legal drinking age of 21. 


Is a BUI as bad as a DUI?


Just as Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a serious crime in Florida, so is Boating Under the Influence (BUI). Unlike a DUI, your driver’s license will not be suspended, but you may lose your boating privileges. Additionally, if you are charged with a BUI it will count as a prior conviction if you are ever arrested again for either a DUI or BUI. 


The penalties for a BUI conviction in Jupiter Florida can be just as severe as those for DUI. 


What Happens if Arrested for BUI in Jupiter Florida


Even first-time offenses can result in serious legal consequences. The maximum fine is up to $1,000 dollars and up to six months of jail time. If convicted of a second offense within 5 years of your first BUI incident, the maximum fine goes up to $2,000 dollars with up to nine months in jail.


For a third-time BUI offense within a 10-year time period, the fine is as much as $5,000 dollars and up to five years in prison. 


These penalties are simply for a BUI charge. If you cause serious injury or death as a result of boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it is considered a felony and will carry hefty legal penalties. 


In addition, a BUI charge can also result in community service requirements, court-mandated boating safety education, and impoundment of the boat driven.


Not only does drinking while boating have serious legal consequences, but it can also be extremely dangerous and even deadly, Be sure to have a designated driver for the boat this summer. 


Our firm handles a significant number of drunk boating cases every year. Contact us today to take advantage of our years of experience handling these charges to get the best possible outcome. 


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