St. Johns and Flagler Counties are sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the St. Johns River or its tributaries to the west. In recent years law enforcement agencies and local assistant state attorneys in Bunnell have started to increase enforcement for (BUI) boating under the influence. Boating under the influence is not a payable citation in Florida. These cases are considered a serious criminal offense that Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and local law enforcement treats them much like they would a DUI. Flagler County BUI lawyer Kevin Pitts has experience in defending and prosecuting this type of offense. The penalties are very similar to those that attach to Flagler County DUI cases. Probation, community service hours, alcohol or substance abuse classes and vessel impoundment are just a few of the potential penalties that will be enforced if convicted of a BUI. Jail and in some cases prison time can be a real possibility for repeat BUI offenders or BUI cases with serious injury or death. It is important to hire a qualified and experienced BUI defense lawyer to defend the charge as the effects of a conviction can haunt you for life. An experienced BUI attorney understands that a boating under the influence case can be much more complicated than DUI for the state to prove at trial.
To find someone guilty of boating under the influence (BUI), it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that a person operated a vessel within the state while under the influence of alcohol or any other controlled substance. To prove that an operator of a vessel is BUI, the prosecution must prove that the operator’s normal faculties were impaired or that the operator’s blood-alcohol level or breath alcohol level exceeded .08. Field sobriety exercises (FSE) are often used to develop probable cause for arrest. They cannot be effectively done on a boat. The results of field sobriety exercises are questionable when on land but after a day on the water they are even less accurate. The officer often makes the decision to detain the boater on the water before doing a complete investigation. This can make the legality of the detention questionable. Boarding the boat and taking the driver to land can become a custodial arrest which requires substantial evidence of guilt.
For purposes of enhancement of criminal sanctions and administrative driver license suspensions in a subsequent Florida DUI case, BUI counts as a prior conviction for driving under the influence (DUI). If you have previously been convicted of DUI, your BUI sentence can also be enhanced as provided below. A first BUI conviction carries a fine of up to $1,000 and not more than 6 months in the county jail. A second BUI conviction carries a fine of up to $2,000 and not more than 9 months in the county jail. Anyone convicted of a third BUI within 10 years of a prior BUI or DUI conviction can be charged with a third degree felony punishable up to five years in prison. If the conviction occurs outside 10 years of the previous conviction a person can receive a fine up to $5,000 and up to a year in the county jail. A fourth conviction for BUI is a felony unless the state decides to file it as a misdemeanor.
In addition the penalties mentioned above, a defendant convicted of BUI in Flagler County will be required to attend a substance abuse course, the costs of which shall be paid by the offender. Furthermore, the offender must have a substance abuse evaluation and treatment if recommended. The accused will also be required to perform community service hours. The boat or jet-ski involved in the BUI will be subject to impoundment or immobilization. Mandatory jail sentences may apply for subsequent BUI convictions depending on when the prior offense or offenses occurred.
The offense of a Flagler County BUI manslaughter is much more serious than a standard BUI charge. Boating under the influence manslaughter is a second degree felony punishable up to 15 years in prison. Like with a DUI manslaughter case, the Florida sentencing guidelines allow for victim injury points above and beyond the standard guidelines in BUI manslaughter cases. The element of causation must be proven in BUI manslaughter cases which simply put means that the operation of the vessel caused or contributed to the death of the victim. A BUI manslaughter charge can be elevated to a first degree felony punishable up to 30 years in prison if the operator of the vessel at the time of the accident knew or should have known that the accident occurred and that the operator failed to provide information or render aid as required under the Florida Statutes.