BUI Defense Lawyers in Stuart, Florida (FL)
Known as the "Sailfish Capital of the World," the Atlantic Coast city of Stuart is located along Florida’s renowned Treasure Coast, north of Palm Beach and south of Vero Beach. Along with fishing and other water-intensive pleasures, Stuart is famed for its historic and pedestrian-friendly downtown.
With several choices for fishing, boating, and the use of other watercraft, law enforcement officials who patrol the waters along the Florida coastline are busy checking boats to ensure that they have proper registration and have all necessary safety gear on board. They are also on the lookout for boaters who choose to operate a vessel while impaired by drugs or alcohol. Known as boating under the influence, or BUI, this is a serious charge in Stuart, which is associated with serious penalties, including jail time, monetary fines, and more. Any BUI charge comes with a threat or severe consequences. It is vital that a person who has been accused of BUI contact an experienced BUI defense attorney in Stuart.
If you have been charged with BUI in Stuart, contact Musca Law now to learn more about your legal rights and options. Our seasoned Stuart BUI defense lawyers have several years of experience representing individuals facing a wide variety of crimes in the state of Florida, including BUIs. Contact us today at (888) 484-5057 to schedule a free consultation.
What You Should Know – Boating Under the Influence Charges in Stuart
Many residents of Stuart, as well as visitors, take to the water in Stuart and enjoy a few drinks while on a vessel. Although drinking on a boat is not unlawful, “operating” a vessel while impaired is against the law. A boater may feel sober and not notice any loss of his or her faculties after consuming a small to moderate amount of alcohol while on a watercraft or boat. In reality, a person’s ability to operate a boat is impacted by even a tiny amount of alcohol. The effects of alcohol may be even more of an issue on open water where the weather and the sea may be unpredictable. By far, the best way to enjoy boating in Stuart is to designate a sober individual who will be responsible for controlling the watercraft, and who will not be consuming alcohol in any amount.
BUI Laws in Stuart, Florida
Under Florida Statutes Section 327.35, it is unlawful for an individual to operate a vessel (such as a boat, jet ski, or waver runner) while impaired by drugs or alcohol. Specifically, an individual may be convicted of BUI in Stuart if the following elements apply:
- The individual is operating a vessel in any part of Florida’s waters;
- That individual’s normal faculties are impaired due to the influence of drugs and/or alcohol;
- The individual has a blood alcohol level of at least 0.08 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood; or
- The individual tests for a breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.
In Florida, an individual whose normal faculties are not impaired by his or her consumption of alcohol, and whose levels fall below 0.08% may be able to avoid charges for boating under the influence.
However, it is important to realize that police and prosecutors in Stuart are granted discretion when determining whether to charge people with BUI. As such, it is best to avoid consuming any amount of drugs or alcohol as this may lead to law enforcement to render the conclusion that the person is impaired by the alcohol or drug.
Penalties and Sentencing for BUI Convictions in Stuart
When a person does not have a criminal record, he or she has many opportunities, including leasing an apartment, finding gainful employment, and attending college. When a person is convicted of BUI, they can see many of these opportunities disappear. Just a single conviction for BUI can have disastrous consequences, much like those associated with driving a car while under the influence.
Under Florida Law, the listed penalties are associated with a conviction for a person found guilty of a first time or second-time BUI offense:
- First BUI convictions can lead to a jail term of up to six months and up to a $1,000 momentary fine;
- Second BUI convictions will result in a jail term ranging from a minimum of ten days and a maximum of nine months, and a monetary fine of at most $2,000.
If an individual has been convicted two times previously for BUIs and is found guilty of another BUI within one decade of being convicted of the more recent BUI offense, then that person will be convicted of a felony in the third-degree. A felony in the third degree is associated with a five-year prison term and a monetary fine of up to $5,000. If an individual receives a conviction for a third BUI outside of the ten year lookback period, then that person will face a prison term of at most one year and a monetary fine of up to $5,000.
Additional Consequences Associated with a BUI Conviction in Stuart
On top of the monetary fines and prison time, any individual who is convicted of boating under the influence in Stuart (whether the offense is the first, second, third, or subsequent BUI) will face probation that will include a required monthly reporting. For individuals convicted of a first BUI, there will be a probationary period of at most one year. For subsequent convictions for BUI, the probational period can be extended to much longer periods of time.
Convicted individuals will also be required to complete 50 hours of community service as well as attend a substance abuse treatment which the court will mandate (the offender must foot the bill for such treatment). In addition, the watercraft used at the time of the BUI incident will be subject to impoundment for a minimum of ten days in the event of a first BUI offense. The impoundment for a second BUI offense will be at least 30 days long.
Stuart Aggravated BUI Charges
BUI charges in Stuart may be subject to enhancement under certain circumstances. As an example, if an individual who is facing a Stuart BUI has earlier DUI or drug convictions, the prosecution can request that the BUI charge be elevated to charges for aggravated BUI. Moreover, if an individual’s tests show their level is at or higher than a 0.15% blood or breath alcohol, the prosecutor can charge the person with an aggravated BUI. Lastly, a person can be faced with aggravated BUI charges if law enforcement stopped their vessel while it was carrying children below the age of eighteen.
Hiring a Stuart BUI Defense Attorney is Vital for the Successful Defense of these Charges
The laws in the state of Florida are strict when people are accused of committing a BUI. Notwithstanding, prosecutors will vary when it comes to how aggressively they will pursue these charges. Accordingly, analogous situations can result in different penalties and consequences depending upon who is prosecuting the case, and the experience of the accused’s Stuart BUI defense lawyer.
The Stuart area and Florida have several reputable and well-respected attorneys. However, if a lawyer has a good working relationship with the prosecutors, this may assist an accused in obtaining a more favorable result. Finding an attorney who focuses his or her practice on criminal defense is more beneficial than finding one who handles a variety of different legal matters, such as personal injury and divorce cases. These more generally focused lawyers may not be ideal due to the various nuances associated with criminal cases of which they may not be aware. If you have been charged with BUI, contact the seasoned Stuart BUI defense lawyers at Musca Law today.
Alcohol or Drug-Related Boating Accidents in Martin County, Florida
Accidents on the water can be serious and result in significant property damage, bodily injury, and even fatalities. Such incidents occur on a daily basis, even when drugs or alcohol are not involved. However, when a person is accused of BUI in Stuart, that individual may face harsh penalties if convicted. The results of an individual’s case depend upon the amount of damage one to property and the severity of physical injuries caused by the event. Undoubtedly, the greater the harm, the more significant the legal consequences will be for the boat operator.
If a watercraft accident caused by BUI resulted in minor physical injuries and/or property damage, the accused will face charges for a misdemeanor in the first degree, which is associated with a jail term of at most one year and a monetary fine not to exceed $1,000. When the incident caused serious injuries, accused individuals will face felony charges in the third-degree, which can include a maximum jail term of five years plus a monetary fine not to exceed $5,000.
If a boater accused of BUI causes another person to die, he or she will be charged with a felony in the second degree, which is associated with a jail term of at most fifteen years and a monetary fine not to exceed $10,000. The sentence and associated penalties will be harsher if a person chooses to flee the scene of a deadly accident involving BUI. In this case, the individual will be charged with a first-degree felony, which is associated with a maximum thirty-year prison term and a monetary fine not to exceed $10,000.
Defining the “Operating” of a Boat or Other Vessel in Stuart, Florida
Pursuant to Florida law, prosecutors and officers of the law have a significant amount of discretion when pursuing BUI charges against an individual. For instance, in order to charge a person with a DUI in Florida, the prosecution must establish that the accused was behind the vehicle’s wheel and controlling that vehicle at the time when law enforcement stopped the automobile. Conversely, with BUI in Florida, the prosecution does need not prove that the accused was controlling the vessel when law enforcement made the stop. Specifically, the prosecution may rely upon other evidence in order to establish that the accused was the operator of the vessel.
Whether an individual facing the BUI accusation is the operator of the vessel while impaired by drugs or alcohol is a critical question that will frequently be disputed in the courtroom. When Stuart law enforcement stops a vessel, it may not be fully clear as to who was operating the vessel. Accordingly, if the accused is charged with boating under the influence, even though he or she was not operating the vessel at the time of the stop, he or she may be able to have the charges dismissed.
Detainment Following Arrest
Under Florida law, officers have the right to detain people arrested for BUI, but it is important to note that there are limits as to how long a person may be detained. Following an arrest, police must arrest the suspect if one of the following occurs:
- Eight hours have passed since the time of the arrest;
- The individual’s normal faculties have been restored; or
- The individual’s blood-alcohol concentration has reached 0.05% or less.
Police may detain the individual until one of these criteria is met.
Stuart Law Enforcement Officers are Afforded Wide Discretion for a Reason
Because of the severity of boating accidents involving BUI, Stuart law enforcement officers carefully and aggressively monitor the coastal waters. Pursuant to the job it is tasked with performing, Stuart law enforcement has the right to stop a boat to conduct a random registration and safety check. This can often be used as a pretext to conduct a further investigation should BUI be suspected.
For instance, if a watercraft is stopped by Stuart police officers, an officer may probe further if he or she suspects that the operator has been consuming alcohol or drugs. In this case, the officer has the right to request that the operator undergo a portable breath test and/or field sobriety test. While this might seem unfair, the law permits for law enforcement to carry out these tests in cases where they have a reasonable suspicion that drugs or alcohol were used by the individual who is operating the boat.
How to Defend Against a Stuart BUI Charge
Every individual who is facing criminal charges deserves an aggressive defense. Remember, allegations that a person was boating under the influence can only be proved if the prosecution shows beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was the person in control of the vessel at a point in time when he or she was impaired by drugs or alcohol.
Without a Stuart BUI defense attorney, the accused will likely struggle to navigate the legal system and will potentially have his or her rights violated in the process. However, with a qualified and experienced lawyer, an accused may avail himself or herself of a number of different defenses to his or her BUI charges. A court will look at the defendant’s criminal history, and this information will be relevant to the defense of the charges.
One common way to defend against allegations of boating under the influence in Stuart is to state that the accused was not the individual controlling the vessel when the police stopped the boat. Specifically, the accused can assert that he or she was simply a passenger of the vessel. In Florida, it is not illegal for a passenger to consume alcohol while on a boat. If the individual establishes that he or she was not the operator of the boat, then the charges will be dismissed.
Musca Law´s Stuart BUI Defense Attorneys Will Protect Your Rights
When a person is charged with a BUI in Stuart, the consequences can be severe. Facing these charges is frightening and stressful. If you have been charged with a BUI in Stuart, contact the Stuart criminal defense attorneys at Musca Law to learn how we can advocate for you and protect your rights. Schedule a no-cost consultation with one of our seasoned Stuart BUI defense attorneys by calling (888) 484-5057 today.