underage boaters with alcohol

Florida Defense Attorney Shares Consequences for Underage BUI

Being convicted of underage boating under the influence (BUI) in Florida can have serious consequences, including fines, jail time, community service, and a criminal record. If you are facing this type of charge, it’s important to work with a Florida attorney with experience defending boating cases that involve alcohol. Flaherty & Merrifield is here to help.

What Counts as an Underage BUI Under Florida Law

Boating under the influence is a serious charge regardless of age. In the state of Florida, there are specific provisions for underage boating under the influence. A person operating a boating vessel in Florida who is over the age of 21 can be charged with BUI with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher. For underage boaters, the standard is much lower.

In Florida, a boater who is under the age of 21 can be charged with DUI if they have a BAC of .02 or higher. This means that it is unlawful for a person who is under the legal drinking age to operate a marine vessel if they have any measurable amount of alcohol at all in their system. The .02 standard also applies to underage driving under the influence (DUI) charges in Florida.

BUI doesn’t only relate to alcohol. Charges also apply to boaters who are underage or of legal drinking age if they have any chemical substance set forth under Chapter 877.111 or any substance controlled under Chapter 893 in their system to the point where normal faculties are impaired.

Underage BUI Convictions and Penalties

The consequences of being convicted of underage BUI can follow a person for years and may have lifelong consequences. For those under 21, there are mandatory minimum sentencing requirements, as well as the possibility of additional penalties. At a minimum, underage BUI offenders will be required to complete:

  • 50 hours of public service
  • An approved boater education course, either in-person or online
  • An additional four-hour online course specifically for BUI violators

Additional penalties may also apply based on the circumstances under which the individual was charged and the facts of the case, such as whether people were injured as a result. BUI penalties include jail time, fines, probation, community service, and license revocation. The consequences of BUI are significantly steeper for repeat offenders.

Potential First Conviction Penalties

In Florida, most first-time BUI convictions are second-degree misdemeanors. Additional consequences for underage boaters may include: 

  • $500-$1,000 in fines
  • Up to six months in jail
  • Up to one year of probation
  • Community service
  • 10 days of vessel impoundment or immobilization

Additional Second Conviction Penalties

Most second-time BUI convictions are second-degree misdemeanors, as well. However, fines and sentencing are stronger. Additional penalties for a second conviction may include the following:

  • $1,000-$2,000 in fines
  • Up to nine months in jail
  • 30 days of vessel impoundment or immobilization
  • Minimum 10-day jail sentence (applies if the second BUI occurred within five years of the first BUI)

Subsequent Convictions

Subsequent convictions carry even steeper penalties and vary based on how much time has passed since the vessel operator’s previous convictions. 

How a Lawyer Will Keep You Afloat

It’s of the utmost importance to have a lawyer help you when facing a BUI conviction. The sooner you bring in a Florida BUI attorney to help you, the better. When you hire Flaherty & Merrifield to represent you in your underage BUI case, we will work diligently to mount the best possible defense. You can expect us to:

  • Investigate the incident. We will conduct our own thorough investigation of the BUI to gather all available information that can help us build a stronger case in your favor, including whether there was valid reasonable cause for you to be stopped.
  • Develop a defense. We will use our reasoning and argumentation skills to develop a powerful defense based on the circumstances under which you were stopped and arrested.
  • Seek to get your charges reduced or dismissed. We will speak with the prosecutor and judge with the goal of getting your charges reduced or dismissed.
  • Protect your rights. We will advise you on when to stay silent and when to speak up to get the best results out of your case.
  • Always be on your side. As your lawyer, we will always be on your side throughout the entire legal process.
Brandy Merrifield
Connect with me
Florida Criminal Defense Attorney