Photo of Richard Ansara - Attorney at Law
Call 24/7 at (954) 761-4011
Richard Ansara Attorney at Law

F.S. 327.35 - Boating Under the Influence

F.S. 327.35 prohibits boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Florida. Possession of alcohol – even in open containers – isn’t illegal if you’re on a boat. However, if you’re the one responsible for operating the boat, you’re held to the same standard of sobriety as the driver of a motor vehicle on land. 

As a Fort Lauderdale DUI defense lawyer can explain, while a BUI and DUI share many of the same elements, there are some differences as well. It’s important if you’re arrested for boating under the influence in Broward County that you hire a criminal defense lawyer with experience and success specifically in representing defendants in Florida BUI cases. 

One thing is for certain: If you are arrested for BUI or boating under the influence in Florida, you can expect the case will be vigorously prosecuted. It’s wise to have a legal advocate on your side who can defend your rights and minimize the impact this will have on your life. Know that just because you were arrested does not automatically mean you’ll be convicted. When you work with an experienced defense attorney, we’ll fight to have the charges either dismissed altogether or at least reduced to something like a civil infraction for careless boating. 

F.S. 327.35 vs. F.S. 316.193

The Florida statute on boating under the influence (F.S. 327.35) is similar in many ways to the one for driving under the influence (F.S. 316.193). 

Operation of both vessels and motor vehicles is considered a privilege. People who assume a position of controlling either one are expected to exercise reasonable care - and that includes maintaining one’s sobriety. 

A person is considered guilty of boating under the influence if they are operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs and/or their blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher. That is the same threshold as what is expected of motor vehicle drivers on land. 

BAC is typically determined by a breathalyzer. 

Boaters are expected to comply with implied consent laws, just like drivers. That means you can be penalized for refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test if a law enforcement officer makes a request based on reasonable suspicion that you are operating a boat under the influence. Boating, like driving, is considered a privilege, and your consent to such tests is implied. (Both on the road and on the water, this only applies to breath tests. As the U.S. Supreme Court held in Birchfield v. North Dakota, the Fourth Amendment allows warrantless breath tests and urine tests incident to impaired driving arrests, but not warrantless blood tests.)

However, while refusing a breathalyzer test from an officer on the road gets you an automatic one-year driver’s license suspension, boater’s get a fine. (There’s no “boating license” to suspend.) The penalty for a boat operator refusing a breath test per F.S. 327.352 is a civil fine up to $500. If it’s not your first refusal, you could be facing misdemeanor criminal charges. This refusal to submit to chemical testing can be used against you in any related criminal proceedings. 

Another point to compare is the administration of field sobriety tests. Field tests are not legally mandated for boat or car drivers – and you can’t be punished for refusing to submit to them. However, the approved standardized sobriety testing is different on a boat than on the road. 

To address some of the issues unique to marine patrol officers in performing sobriety tests related to balance, officers use the “seated battery of standardized field sobriety testing.” These are what’s used both on the boat and immediately after someone gets off a boat. But just like the standardized field sobriety tests on land, such analyses aren’t beyond reproach or scrutiny. A Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer can explain whether challenging the methodology or results of field sobriety tests is worthwhile in your BUI case.

Upon arrest for both BUI and DUI, a defendant must be held in custody until:

  • They are no longer under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
  • Their blood-alcohol level is less than 0.05%.
  • It’s been at least 8 hours since their arrest.

For both Florida BUI and DUI, there are similar penalties. For a first-time offense with no property damage or injuries, the penalty is a fine of between $500 and $1,000 and imprisonment up to 6 months. If your BAC was 0.15% or higher or someone under 18 was on board, it gets bumped up to a more serious offense, with fines up to $2,000 and up to 9 months in jail. 

Courts may also require substance abuse treatment and/or successful completion of safe driving courses to those convicted under both the state’s DUI and BUI statutes. 

If an impaired boater causes a boating accident that results in property damage, injury, or death, they will be facing more serious charges – just as they would behind the wheel of a car. BUI can be a felony if you cause an accident that results in the serious injury or death of another OR if you commit a “hit and run” without rendering aid to those hurt – the same way you would if driving a car. 

Another difference between BUI and DUI is that while the court in a DUI may require those convicted to get ignition interlock devices installed on their car, the same option doesn’t exist for boats. However, the court may tow and impound the vessel, just as the car driven in a DUI can be towed and impounded. 

Then there’s the possibility of probation, something first-time offenders of both Florida BUI and DUI are to receive probation for up to 1 year, during which they are expected to complete at least 50 hours of community service. 

If you have been arrested for BUI pursuant to F.S. 327.35, our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers can explain your options and help you explore effective legal strategies for your case.

Call The Ansara Law Firm today for your free initial consultation at (954) 761-4011.

Client Reviews
“Just wanted to say what a professional law firm "The Ansara Law Firm" was in handling my case and can't thank Richard enough for keeping me calm and letting me know the status of my case. You really do care about your clients and made me feel at ease during my legal issues!” Andy Austin
"Richard was thorough, patient and went above and beyond to make a hard time for my family a little more bearable. I pray we never need a criminal defense attorney again, but if we do, there is NO doubt who we're going to!" Amy
"I had a dui case and Mr. Ansara made it go as smooth as possible. He was able to time everything so I could get a new company up and running without the dui effecting my ability to drive." Sean
"I have been a client of Richard Ansara for several years now, I am pleased with his outcomes on all my cases, patience, professionalism and courteousness when I come into his office. I would definitely recommend Ansara's Law Firm to friends and family for any of their future legal needs." Emily Gutierrez