All 50 states have laws against operating a boat or other vessel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Because Florida is a peninsula surrounded by seawater on three sides, these laws are especially relevant.
Space Coast Daily cites the United States Coast Guard in stating that, as dangerous as drinking and driving on land can be, boating under the influence is even more hazardous. With the involvement of drugs or alcohol, boating accidents are 34% more likely to prove fatal. An increase in the number of boating accidents related to substance use and resulting in death and/or injury in Florida has made this area of the law a major focus for legislators in recent years.
What constitutes boating under the influence?
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, operating any sort of vessel while impaired by drugs or alcohol is a violation of Florida state law. This includes motorized watercraft other than boats, such as jet skis, as well as non-motorized vessels including kayaks and canoes.
What are the penalties for BUI?
The penalties can depend on different factors, such as the operator’s blood alcohol concentration or whether it is his or her first offense. Generally speaking, a person convicted of BUI could face jail time, fines and the loss of one’s operator license, similarly to the penalties one might face for drinking and driving.
What if the operator is under 21?
There is no lower age limit to operate a boat in Florida. However, an operator is in violation of Florida law if he or she operates a boat with a blood-alcohol level of at least 0.02% and is under the legal drinking age of 21. For boat operators over 21, the legal limit for alcohol is 0.08%, the same as when driving a car.