According to Florida law, it is illegal to operate a vessel within the state while under the influence of alcohol or drugs—just like intoxicated driving. “Vessel” is defined as any and all watercraft, barge, and airboat—other than a seaplane—used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water.
An individual can be convicted of boating under the influence (BUI) for operating a vessel while:
- Affected to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired via alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two
- Having a BAC level of .08% or greater
A first-offense BUI is considered a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum jail sentence of six months and fines of up to $1,000. However, if the BAC of the defendant was at least .15% at the time of the arrest or if a passenger under 18 years of age was onboard, it results in a nine-month jail sentence and a maximum fine of $2,000.
If the BUI arrest resulted in an accident involving property damage or minor injuries to another individual, it is a considered a first-degree misdemeanor that is punishable by a maximum jail sentence of one year and a fine of up to $1,000. On the other hand, an accident involving serious injury to another person is a third-degree felony, resulting in a prison sentence of up to five years and a maximum fine of $5,000.
Lastly, an accident involving the death of another is either a first- or second-degree felony. Prison time is up to 30 years for a first-degree felony and up to 15 years for a second-degree felony.