Tourists and locals both enjoy Fort Walton Beach's beautiful coastline on Okaloosa Island and the fishing and boating in Choctawhatchee Bay. Unfortunately, the Coast Guard, Florida Fish and Wildlife, and the local sheriff's department know this as well. Throughout our years of defending BUI cases in the area, we have seen that local law enforcement goes to great lengths to make BUI arrests. They scour local waterways looking for signs of impaired boaters. That is why it is no surprise that boating under the influence is one of the most common types of arrests during the spring and summer months.

If you have been arrested for BUI, you need attorneys who are experienced in defending alcohol-related cases. All too often, out-of-towners hire the cheapest attorney they can find and end up extremely dissatisfied with their results. Please don't let this happen to you. Do your research and make sure you are getting one of Fort Walton Beach's most experienced criminal defense attorneys. At Flaherty & Merrifield, our results speak for themselves.

My name is Tim Flaherty. I have been defending locals, vacationers, and military members accused of BUI since 2001. My partner Brandy Merrifield and I understand what you're facing, and we know just how to help. Keep reading.

Potential BUI Penalties

The magic number for blood alcohol content (BAC) is the same as a DUI: 0.08. If you are pulled over while operating a boat and your BAC tests higher than that, you will be arrested and charged with BUI. Under Florida Statute 327.35, there are many potential ramifications of a BUI arrest, including:

  • Up to nine months in jail (for a first conviction)
  • Up to 12 months in jail (for a second conviction)
  • Fines ranging between $500 and $1,000 (for a first conviction)
  • Fines ranging between $1,000 and $2,000 (for a second conviction)
  • Up to one year of probation with sanctions such as substance abuse evaluation and treatment
  • Community service hours
  • 10-day vehicle or boat impoundment

As you can see, BUIs are taken very seriously in Florida. You could be given jail time and will be required to pay hefty fines. Don't face this alone; give us a call or complete our contact form and let us help you.

Proving a BUI Charge

 Under Florida Statute 327.35, you have committed the crime of BUI if all of the following are true:

  • You were operating a vessel within the state of Florida
  • You were under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any chemical substance set forth in chapter 877.111, or any substance controlled under chapter 893, to the extent that your normal faculties were impaired
  • You had a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath

Helping Clients With Elevated BACs

A lot of people think if they blew over 0.08, their case is hopeless. That is simply not true. When your future is on the line, it's important to take a deep dive into all aspects of your case, including the results of the breathalyzer. We will check to ensure that proper protocol was followed prior to the test. In some cases, we are able to get the breath evidence suppressed due to improper maintenance of the machine or protocol not being followed by the officer administering the breath test.

Refusing a Breathalyzer Test

If you refused to blow, you likely received a civil penalty in the amount of $500. Unfortunately, there is usually no way to get out of paying this fee, as it is a civil penalty enforced merely for the refusal itself. While refusing to blow may cost you extra, it may give your attorney more ammunition to fight for you. If the state does not have a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit, there may be issues we can raise to fight for a dismissal or reduced charge. If you have received an infraction for refusing to blow, call us right away, and let's talk about how we can defend you.

How a BUI Arrest Affects Driving Privileges

Unlike its similar charge, driving under the influence (DUI), a BUI arrest will not prevent you from driving. Provided you pay all fines and costs associated with your case, you should never have any problems with your driver's license after a BUI arrest.

How a BUI Attorney Can Help Your Case

There are several ways in which we will defend your Florida case. First and foremost, we will explore every option to get the charges against you dismissed. We will look at all of the information and evidence against you and plan a defense strategy that best suits your individual case. From the moment you were stopped by law enforcement to the moment they deemed you were going to be arrested, we will review all of law enforcement's interactions with you and all other actions leading up to your arrest to make sure you are protected. If law enforcement acted improperly, we will find out and bring it to the state's attention.

Another outcome we strive for is to have the charges reduced to reckless operation of a vessel. This protects your reputation and is not viewed as an alcohol-related crime. Not only do we know the laws related to BUI, but we also know all of the state prosecutors and will work to get the best possible result for you.

Schedule an Appointment to Discuss Your Case

If you have been arrested for boating under the influence in the Fort Walton Beach area, call Flaherty & Merrifield at 850-374-6273 or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation. We'll go over all your options and discuss what we can do for you—and our first consultations are always free and without obligation. Don't wait. Contact us today.