BUI Defense Lawyers in Tampa, Florida (FL)
Tampa is a major city in, and the county seat of, Hillsborough County, Florida, United States. It is located on the west coast of Florida on Tampa Bay, close to the Gulf of Mexico. Tampa is the largest city in the Tampa Bay Area. With a population of nearly 400,000, Tampa is the third-largest city in Florida. The bay's port is the largest in the state, near its downtown Channel District.
Tampa offers several opportunities for fishing, boating, and the usage of other vessels. With the popularity of boating in Tampa, law enforcement customarily patrols the seacoast to ensure that boats have the proper safety gear and valid registrations. Law enforcement is also on the lookout for boaters who choose to consume alcohol or drugs and become impaired, also known as boating under the influence, or BUI. A BUI charge is associated with serious consequences, including monetary fines, jail time, and more. Given that any BUI charge can be severe, an individual who is facing an accusation of BUI must act expeditiously to consult with a skilled Tampa BUI defense lawyer.
If you are facing BUI charges in Tampa, call Musca Law today to learn more about your legal rights and options. Our experienced and zealous BUI defense attorneys will develop the strongest defense on your behalf and work tirelessly to get your charges reduced or even dropped. Contact us today at (888) 484-5057.
What You Should Know – Boating Under the Influence in Tampa
Several people in Tampa, including tourists, choose to go boating and consume alcohol or drugs. While it is not illegal to drink alcohol on a vessel, it is unlawful to operate a vessel while under in the influence. A boater may feel that his or her faculties are intact after drinking a few beers. However, even a small amount of alcohol can affect a boater’s ability to safely operate a boat, especially in the ocean where weather and water conditions may vary and be unpredictable. A boater’s safest bet is to operate a vessel without having consumed alcohol or drugs.
BUI Laws in Hillsborough County, Florida
Pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 327.35, it is illegal for a person to operate a watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Specifically, an individual may face a BUI conviction in Tampa if he or she meets the following elements:
- He or she is engaged in the operation of a watercraft in Florida;
- His or her normal faculties are affected due to being impaired by drugs or alcohol;
- He or she has a breath-alcohol content of 0.08% or more; and/or
- He or she has a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08% or greater.
In Tampa, Florida, a person who has consumed alcohol but whose normal faculties have not been impaired may avoid being subject to a BUI charge if his or her blood-alcohol or breath-alcohol concentrations are under 0.08%.
Notwithstanding, it is critical to be aware of the fact that law enforcement in Tampa has a wide latitude of discretion when stopping a boater under the suspicion of BUI. Accordingly, one should be aware that even the smallest amount of drugs or alcohol in one’s system could lead law enforcement officials to conclude that the suspect’s normal faculties have been impaired by drugs or alcohol.
The Punishment Associated with a BUI in Tampa
When an individual does not have a criminal record, he or she has a wide variety of opportunities in life, such as the ability to find gainful employment, attend college, or rent an apartment. These benefits can quickly fade if an individual faces a BUI conviction. Even one BUI conviction can have serious repercussions, much like the consequences associated with driving a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
In Florida, the punishments listed below are associated with a first or second BUI conviction:
- 1st BUI conviction – imprisonment for up to six months and a maximum monetary fine of $1,000.
- 2nd BUI conviction – imprisonment for at least ten days but not to exceed nine months and a maximum monetary fine of $2,000.
- 3rd BUI conviction – imprisonment for up to five years if a person has a third BUI conviction within ten years of a second conviction. If the third conviction occurs outside of the ten-year lookback period, then the individual will face a prison term of up to one year and a maximum monetary fine of $5,000.
Additional Penalties Associated with a Tampa BUI Conviction
In addition to imprisonment and monetary fines, any person who receives a BUI conviction in Tampa, whether it is his or her first, second, third or subsequent conviction, will be subject to probation that requires reporting on a monthly basis. For a first BUI conviction, the period of probation is up to one year. The timeframe for probation increases with each subsequent BUI conviction.
A person who has been convicted of BUI will also be forced to complete 50 hours of community service. He or she may also be ordered to attend substance abuse counseling, whether on an inpatient or outpatient basis, and at his or her own expense. Additionally, the watercraft involved in a BUI-related incident will be impounded for a minimum of ten days for a first offense. The amount of time that a vessel will be impounded increases with each subsequent BUI conviction.
Aggravated BUI Charges in Tampa
A BUI charge in Tampa may be subject to enhancement in certain cases. For example, if a person who has been charged with BUI has a prior DUI or drug conviction, the prosecutor can seek an aggravated BUI charge. In addition, if a boater’s breath-alcohol content is 0.15% or greater, then he or she will also face an aggravated BUI charge. An aggravated BUI charge may also apply if minors (children under the age of eighteen) are onboard the watercraft when the vessel operator was stopped by police due to alcohol or drug impairment.
The Role of a Tampa BUI Defense Lawyer in BUI Cases
As written, Florida law is extremely strict in terms of imposing penalties for BUI. However, some prosecutors are more aggressive than others when pursuing a BUI conviction. As such, two cases that are similar may have different results based upon who the prosecutor is and the quality of the accused offender’s Tampa BUI defense attorney.
Without a doubt, there are many qualified BUI defense lawyers located throughout the state of Florida. However, a lawyer who has a positive relationship with prosecutors may have a greater chance of obtaining a favorable result on behalf of his or her client. After all, it is imperative to have an attorney who focuses his or her practice on criminal defense. “All-purpose” lawyers, such attorneys who handle cases spanning different areas of law (e.g., an attorney who represents clients in personal injury, criminal defense, and family law cases), may not have the experience necessary to successfully defend a BUI matter given the many nuances associated with these types of cases. Accordingly, if you have been charged with BUI in Tampa, it is critical that you hire a BUI defense lawyer from Musca Law today, as our attorneys focus their practices exclusively on criminal law. We know the ins and outs of the courtroom, have a positive relationship with prosecutors throughout the state of Florida, and are highly familiar with the applicable law. Contact Musca Law today at (888) 484-5057 to learn more about your legal rights and options.
Boating Accidents Involving Drugs or Alcohol in Tampa
Boating accidents may cause property damage, physical injury, and death. These types of accidents regularly occur, even without the involvement of alcohol or drugs. Notwithstanding, when an individual faces a BUI charge in Tampa, he or she may be subject to harsh repercussions if a conviction is secured. The outcome of a person’s case is contingent upon the amount of property damage and the severity level of physical injuries arising out of the accident. Without a doubt, the greater the harm, the more serious the resulting penalties will be.
If a crash associated with BUI causes property damage and/or minor bodily harm, the accused will be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor, which carries with it a term of imprisonment for up to one year a monetary fine of up to $1,000. If a BUI accident causes severe injuries, the accused will be charged with a third-degree felony, which carries with it a maximum jail term of five years and a monetary fine not to exceed $5,000.
If the operator of a vessel accused of BUI causes the death of another person, he or she will face a second-degree felony charge, which carries with it a term of imprisonment for up to fifteen years and a monetary fine not to exceed $10,000. If an impaired boater chooses to flee the scene of an accident involving a death, he or she will be charged with a first-degree felony, which is associated with a jail term of up to 30 years and a monetary fine not to exceed $10,000.
“Operating” a Vessel in Tampa, Florida – Understanding What this Means
In Florida, the prosecution and law enforcement have a significant amount of latitude when seeking BUI charges against another person, which is different than a DUI case. For example, to face a DUI charge in Florida, the prosecutor must prove that the impaired driver was behind the wheel and in control of the automobile when he or she was pulled over by police. However, with a BUI in Florida, the prosecution does not need to establish that the boater was in control of the vessel when stopped by law enforcement. Specifically, the prosecution may use other evidence in order to prove that the accused was the operator of the watercraft. An operator of a boat does not need to be behind the wheel in order to face BUI charges, as a person can be deemed an operator simply by commanding the watercraft.
Whether a person who is facing BUI charges is the operator of the vessel is a critical question that is often the subject of legal dispute. When Tampa police stop a watercraft, it may not be clear as to who is its operator. Accordingly, if a person is charged with BUI and was not the operator of the vessel at the time of the stop, he or she may be able to seek a dismissal of the BUI charges that have been sought against him or her.
What Happens After Being Arrested for a BUI in Tampa?
In Florida, law enforcement has the ability to detain a person following an arrest for BUI, however, it cannot be for an indefinite period of time. Specifically, a person must be released from custody after one of the following happens:
- Eight hours have gone by since the time of the arrest;
- The person has regained his or her normal faculties; or
- The person has a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.05% or less.
Law Enforcement is Afforded Wide Discretion in Tampa BUI Matters
Given the severity of boating accidents involving BUI, Tampa police heavily patrol the coastal waters. As part of their duties in this regard, police have the legal right to stop a boat in order to conduct a registration and safety check. This can be used as a pretext to conduct a further investigation should a person be suspected for operating a boat while impaired.
For example, if a boater is stopped by Tampa police, the officer may investigate further should he or she suspect that alcohol or drug impairment is involved. In this instance, the officer may request that the boater submit to a breathalyzer and/or field sobriety test. Such conduct may seem unfair however, the law enables police to engage in such testing if they have a reasonable suspicion that the operator of the vessel is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Providing a Defense to a Tampa BUI Charge
Every person who faces criminal charges in Tampa deserves the best defense strategy possible. After all, the prosecution has the uphill battle of establishing beyond a reasonable doubt that a person is guilty of BUI in Tampa. To do so, the prosecution must prove, through the presentation of evidence, that the accused was operating a vessel while impaired by alcohol or drugs.
Without a Tampa BUI defense attorney, the accused may unnecessarily be at risk for a conviction. However, with a competent and highly experienced Tampa BUI defense lawyer, the accused may avail himself or herself of a number of different defenses to his or her BUI charges. A person’s criminal history will come into play when providing a defense to a BUI charge.
The most common defense to a BUI charge is that the accused was not operating the vessel at the time of the stop by police. Specifically, the accused can claim that he or she was a passenger, not the operator, of the vessel when pulled over by law enforcement. If the individual establishes that he or she was not the operator of the boat, then the charges will be dismissed.
Tampa BUI Defense Lawyers are Ready to Assist You Now
If you are facing BUI charges in Tampa, Florida, or anywhere else in the state, contact the seasoned Tampa defense lawyers at Musca Law today. For several decades, we have represented thousands of clients facing BUI charges in Florida, and have been able to secure a dismissal or reduction of charges in many BUI cases. Don’t wait to contact a seasoned Tampa BUI defense lawyer at Musca Law, as your life and liberty depend upon it. To schedule your free and completely confidential case consultation, you can contact us at (888) 484-5057.