Boating Under the Influence
Boating Under the Influence Operation Dry Water is the name that State law enforcement is giving to a ramped up enforcement program to look for boozing boaters and possibly make arrests for BUI or Boating Under the Influence in our local waterways.
Here are some things to remember as the Captain of your watercraft during this weekend and next.
Boating Under the Influence
Law Enforcement does not need probable cause for a boating infraction to stop you while you are driving your boat. Law enforcement can pull you over to conduct a safety inspection. Do you have life vests for everyone on board? Do you have flares? A horn? A fire Extinguisher? Do children under 6 years of age have a life jacket on? Do you have a throw able life preserver or cushion close at hand?
Not having anyone of the above items is a violation and can get you a boating citation and an investigation for BUI if the Officer suspects you are impaired by alcohol.
After July 1st 2016 however if you have had and passed a boating safety inspection and have the safety inspection sticker displayed on your boat, law enforcement can no longer stop you to conduct a safety inspection. Florida House Bill CS 703 was approved by the Governor March 25, 2016, and will go into effect starting July 1, 2016. The legislation requires law enforcement to need “probable cause” before stopping or inspecting a vessel if it displays a recent safety inspection decal issued by law enforcement on a previous stop. The law applies only to local and state law enforcement and not to Coast Guard officials who are Federal Officers. The Florida Senate adopted the House version and laid SB CS-1454 on the table.
The details of the issuance of decals does not include the length of time a decal will be valid, nor is it clear whether the decal can be obtained by any means other than during a stop or inspection initiated by law enforcement:
“Upon demonstrated compliance with the safety equipment carriage and use requirements of this chapter during a safety inspection initiated by a law enforcement officer, the operator of a vessel shall be issued a safety inspection decal signifying that the vessel is deemed to have met the safety equipment carriage and use requirements of this chapter at the time and location of such inspection.” So if you are stopped for a safety inspection, make sure you ask for your decal.
Boating infractions can get you stopped by law enforcement as well which then could lead to a BUI investigation. Are your passengers limbs hanging over the side of the boat? Are you creating a wake in a no wake zone or up on plane in a manatee zone? Did you have a boating accident and you have been drinking alcohol?
Some things to remember if you are investigated or arrested for Boating Under the Influence (BUI): Boating Under the Influence charges are very similar to being arrested for driving under the influence. The penalties are virtually identical except for one very important difference. BUI arrest and conviction does not affect your driver’s license or your driving status in any way. Refusal to take a breath test for instance results only in a $100.00 fine, not a severe license suspension. The other probation and penalties, fines are virtually the same. Having a prior BUI however can lead to aggravated consequences if you are subsequently arrested and convicted for DUI. In that instance a prior BUI conviction acts as a prior DUI conviction. If the BUI charges are sustainable, Palm Beach county does have a program for first offenders but there are qualifications to being accepted into the program. Just as in DUI arrests some people are not initially accepted into the program. It takes then an experienced BUI attorney to fight for your acceptance into the first offenders program and to fight the validity of the charges in the first place.