As summer quickly approaches, you’ll start to notice more people out in boats enjoying their weekends on the water. Boating is a popular recreational sport in Florida, and with a seemingly endless number of beautiful beaches to choose from, it’s not hard to see why. While relaxing on the water may seem like a perfect time to crack a few beers, it’s important to keep in mind that boating while drunk can lead to significant criminal penalties.

The Legal Implications of Driving a Boat While Intoxicated

While those who get behind the wheel of an automobile commonly understand a DUI charge, boat drivers often overlook the fact that it is illegal to operate a boat while intoxicated. Both state and Federal law make boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a crime. A BWI (boating while intoxicated) charge comes with its own set of complications. For example, in extreme cases, a boater might also lose their driver’s license and the ability to operate a vehicle on land. In addition, a drunken boater who kills someone could face manslaughter charges.

The rules on the water are not necessarily more lenient than the rules when you’re on land. Even if it might feel like you’re in a different space, you are still required to follow the law.

BUI Checkpoints on the Water

You’ve probably seen or heard of a DUI checkpoint set up on the road. Police also have the ability to set something similar up on the water to check for boaters driving under the influence. If you are stopped while boating, the police might administer a Breathalyzer test to see if you exceeded the legal limit.

You do have the right to refuse this test, but the consequences might prove even worse in this case. The police have the ability to send you to the Coast Guard for review. If the Coast Guard determines you are drunk while boating, you may receive a fine ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 for this offense. In addition, federal law backs this fine—if you refuse to pay the fine, the Coast Guard may legally confiscate the vessel that you operated under the influence of alcohol. In other words, driving a boat while drunk may result in a large fine and worse, the loss of your boat.

Schedule a Meeting with a St. Petersburg, Florida, Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have been hit with a boating while under the influence charge, it’s important to fully understand your legal rights. This type of charge can have a serious impact on your life, and it is advisable to talk with an experienced criminal defense attorney. At the Khonsari Law Group, our attorneys offer a free initial consultation to discuss the details of your individual case. We can help to outline your options and advise you of your rights. Contact us today online or call us at (727) 269-5300 to set up your first appointment for free.