Boating Under the Influence: A Serious Violation of the Federal BUI Law

BUI or boating under the influence is another major cause of accident that continues to injure or claim the lives of hundreds of individuals. The Boating Safety Resource Center, the U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Division’s official website, says that BUI is deadly; that drinking would impair a boat operator faster than it would impair a car driver; and that 1/3 of all recreational boating accidents are due to alcohol impairment. Because of the dangers brought about by BUI, those who violate U.S. BUI laws face the possibility of a jail term, huge fines and revocation of operator privileges.

The federal BUI law enforced by the United States Coast Guard is applicable to all types of boats, including the largest ships, rowboats and canoes; it even includes foreign vessels sailing through U.S. territories and U.S. ships on the high seas.

Drinking alcohol or liquor, while on sea, can affect a boat operator’s balance, coordination, vision and judgment, much faster than when alcohol is consumed on land. This is due to the overall sea environment, which includes the sun, wind, sea water mist or spray, engine noise, vibration and motion. Thus, due to alcohol impairment, capsizing boats and drunken passengers falling over board are common cause-of-death reports.

The threatening effects of alcohol when it is consumed while on sea include:

  • Deterioration of judgment and cognitive abilities, rendering wise assessment of situations, processing of information and making good choices, much harder;
  • Impairment in physical control, resulting to failure to make timely reactions to dangers, lack of coordination and problem in balance;
  • Decrease in peripheral or night vision and depth perception, difficulty in identifying colors, especially green and red; and,
  • Failure to pull self out of the cold water, causing hypothermia and death.

According to the Flaherty Defense Firm, “Thousands of people come from all over the country every summer to vacation in Destin. One of the most popular things to do is rent a ski boat, pontoon boat, or a jet ski and take it out to Crab Island or Norriego Point to have a great time along with the hundreds of other boaters, yolo boarders, and swimmers. Unfortunately, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Officers and the Coast Guard station themselves right in the midst of all the fun. They are looking for anyone who shows any signs of having had too much to drink.

Once they have zeroed in on a suspect, they will approach the boat, tie it off to their boat, and board. They will do this under the guise of a “vessel safety check.” They will make sure the boat has a sufficient number of flotation devices and other required safety equipment. But before they leave your boat, they will ask if anyone has been drinking. They will search the boat for empty containers or open containers of alcohol.

The penalties for a BUI charge are very similar to the ones for a DUI. If this is your first or second offense, BUI is a first degree misdemeanor offense. The potential punishment ranges from 6 to 9 months in jail and up to a $1,000.00 fine. If convicted, you will also be required to serve probation, complete community service hours, attend alcohol awareness classes, and have your boat impounded.

If you are accused of Boating Under the Influence that resulted in an accident that caused serious bodily injury, you will be charged with a felony BUI offense punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

A BUI case demands the right response, such as hiring a skilled and experienced BUI defense lawyer to meet the accusations against you head on.”

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