One of the great joys of living in (or visiting) Florida is the opportunity to enjoy spending time on the water with family and friends. Boating can be a wonderful recreational activity. There is something so relaxing about spending time on a boat, enjoying the water, the sun, and the company of those closest to you. An afternoon daydreaming on the water can be just what you need to unwind and set aside the day-to-day stresses of your life for just a little while.
But those daydreams can quickly turn into a nightmare if you are involved in an accident. And that nightmare only gets worse if someone loses their life and you are arrested on a charge of boating under the influence (BUI) manslaughter.
The Definition and the Consequences of BUI Manslaughter
It probably will come as no surprise that a boating under the influence charge stems from the same sort of situation that results in a driving under the influence charge. It is against the law to operate a boat if your blood alcohol level is above the legal limit. You can be charged with BUI by the Coast Guard, Florida Fish and Wildlife, or the local sheriff with jurisdiction over the body of water on which you were boating.
In Florida, a BUI charge becomes a BUI manslaughter charge when the offense causes or contributes to causing the death of someone (including an unborn child). BUI manslaughter is a second-degree felony in most cases. It becomes a first-degree felony if the person charged knew (or should have known) that a crash had happened but then failed to provide information or render aid as required by Florida law.
If you are charged with second-degree felony BUI manslaughter, you are facing up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. If, instead, you have been charged with first-degree felony BUI manslaughter, your potential prison time doubles to up to 30 years and you are subject to a fine of up to $10,000.
A Lawyer Can Be Your Life Preserver After a BUI Manslaughter Charge
We cannot overemphasize the necessity of hiring a lawyer if you are arrested for BUI manslaughter in Florida. Your lawyer will fully investigate the incident—including the circumstances of your arrest to ensure your rights have not been violated—and then develop the best available defense for your specific case. In some cases, if circumstances support it, your lawyer may be able to get the charges against you reduced—or even dismissed, though this can be challenging in situations involving a loss of life.
A skilled attorney will defend you vigorously and will always be on your side. You need the expertise and the help of someone who will not judge you or make assumptions about what led up to or caused the accident for which you have been arrested. Instead, they will look at the facts of the case and make informed recommendations about how best to move forward.
Contact an Okaloosa County BUI Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one have been charged with a BUI in Okaloosa County, call Flaherty & Merrifield today at (850) 243-6097 for a free consultation.