Badge - Avvo Rating 10, Superb
Badge - Natitonal Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Expertise badge
Badge - Avvo Rating, Top Attorney
Expertise Best Criminal Defense Attorneys in St. Petersburg
The National Trial Lawyers Top 100

Boating Under the Influence

Sarasota Criminal Defense Lawyers Defending Your Rights

Florida’s gulf coast is often considered a sportsman’s paradise. The gulf of Mexico provides a myriad of recreational activities like fishing, diving and sailing. The one thing that all of those and similar activities share is the need for a boat. With more coastline than California, Floridians are known for their love of boating. Boating and boat related recreation generates a lot of money for residents of the state. And whenever money is involved, the government will always be close behind with regulation trying to take away everyone’s fun.

One of those regulations that can seriously effect recreational boaters are criminal laws associated with boating while under the influence of alcohol. While most people associated DUI charges with land based motor vehicles, people are often caught off guard by the similar laws applied to the operation of water based vessels. The simple fact is that drinking and boating are activities that are often closely associated with each other by Floridians. The reality is that Florida has enacted boating under the influence laws that are very similar to the more prevalent driving under the influence. If you or a loved one have been arrested or investigated for boating under the influence, you should not hesitate to contact a skilled Sarasota criminal defense lawyer to build a defense for you.

Elements of Boating Under the Influence

In order to prove someone guilty of the offense of boating under the influence, the state must prove several elements beyond a reasonable doubt. First and seemingly obvious, the state must prove that the defendant was operating a vessel. Savvy defense attorneys try not to overlook even seemingly simple elements like this. Often people boat in groups, and under some circumstances it may be difficult for prosecutors to prove who aboard the vessel was actually piloting the boat.

Next, the prosecution must prove that the operator of the vessel was under the influence of alcohol to the point his or her normal faculties were impaired. There are two ways for police to collect this type of evidence. First, the police can present evidence of the defendant’s breath alcohol level. In Florida, if an arrestee’s breath or blood alcohol level is above .08, impairment is presumed and it is far easier for the prosecution to prove their case. This is one of the reasons that you should never agree to provide a breath or blood sample to the police. If you have been arrested and asked for a breath sample, you should try to contact an experienced Sarasota criminal defense lawyer as quickly as you can.

The police can also prove impairment by testifying about their observations of the defendant. In a typical DUI investigation, officers will have a suspect perform field sobriety exercise consisting of the “walk and turn,” and “one legged stand.” In a boating under the influence investigation, those exercises are rendered useless because people’s balance is affected on a moving boat and on dry land, one’s inner ear has to adjust before he or she regains their “land legs.” For this reason, the coast guard has developed sobriety exercises specific to boating cases. A skilled Sarasota criminal defense lawyer however, can successfully challenge the reliability of these often silly exercises.


Boating under the influence carries several mandatory penalties that can seriously effect a defendant. A BUI conviction can result in mandatory probation and DUI School. There are also mandatory and significant fines and court costs associated with a conviction. However, there are certain penalties associated with DUI that BUI does not mirror. Because a license is not required to operate a vessel, your license cannot be suspended for an arrest or conviction related to BUI. Often, police will threaten suspected DUI drivers with a suspended license for failure to submit to a breath sample. The same threat cannot be used against those who are suspected of BUI.

Speak to Our Lawyers Today

The attorneys at Hanlon Law are ready to consult with you regarding your criminal charges today. Do not hesitate to contact us now at 941.462.1789.

Client Reviews
As a practicing attorney, I was shocked to hear that a family member of mine was alleged to have committed a sex crime. Knowing full well the consequences this type of allegation can have on anyone and their future, I immediately reached out to William Hanlon for help... Jerry
Was on the ball. Remembered names, events, places, situations. Never need to re explain the situation. Keeps in touch through out the entire experience and keeps you feeling safe, comforted and protected. Fights hard. Worth every single penny. Would never settle for anything less than Will. Carrie
I was facing a charge that if convicted would carry two years in prison minimally. Not only was he empathetic and listening to what I had to say but he arranged with the prosecutor for my charges not to be filed under terms of a pre trial investigation. Would highly recommend. Alec
I am very happy for what he did for me. Always there when I needed him. Explained everything well. He Fights for his clients. He got me what I needed. Hes an excellent lawyer. Mutaz
Mr. Hanlon did what no other lawyer could do. Not only did he turn my criminal history into a thing of the past so I could move on, he was a loyal associate. No matter how bad the situation is, he has miraculously cleared me on every charge since he became my lawyer 5 years ago. I have the best lawyer that the legal system has to offer. I have had other really good lawyers try to get my business, but I know that no one can do a better job than William Hanlon. Jesse