Boating under the influence is a serious misdemeanor offense in the State of Florida. Penalties include a mandatory conviction, fines, and possible loss of your boating permit.
In most BUI cases, your boat will be stopped by Coast Guard or Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) officers. You may be stopped for a violation, such as speeding in a manatee zone, or for an equipment check. FWC and Coast Guard do not need probable cause to stop you for an equipment check.
Once the officers have your boat stopped, they may request that you submit to field sobriety exercises if they suspect that you are impaired. Indicia of impairment for BUI as opposed to DUI is the same - flushed face, bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and an odor of alcohol on your breath.
The field sobriety exercises for BUI may be different than DUI exercises. If performed dockside (ashore), the exercises may include walk-and-turn, horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), and one-leg stand. If the officers conducted their tests on their boat (afloat), then you will remain seated while you do the palm pat, finger-to-nose, and HGN tests.
You will be offered the chance to submit to a breath test. You may refuse this test as you can with a DUI.
At trial, the state will put on the testimony of the FWC or Coast Guard officers who stopped you and conducted the investigation. If you submitted to a breath test, those results may be put into evidence.
BUI is a serious matter. The mandatory conviction it carries will remain on your record for your life. Not only can a conviction not be sealed or expunged, a single conviction will prevent you from ever being able to seal or expunge an unrelated criminal record.
Eric Matheny is a criminal defense attorney representing clients in Miami-Dade and Broward charged with Boating Under The Influence.