And while it’s true that a boat is a different sort of vehicle, and that traffic law and nautical law have some dif-ferent conventions, there’s one thing that the law is firm on regardless of being ashore or afloat. Being under the influence is illegal.
It’s The Law
In the same way that a driver can be charged with DUI, or driving under the influence of alcohol, the same thing exists in the marine environment, only now it is called BUI, or boating under the influence. Unfortunately, due to the mostly leisure nature of the vast majority of boats in Florida waters, BUI is not a tiny, isolated legal infrac-tion. As a matter of fact, Florida statistics show that in the fatal boating accidents that have occurred in Florida waters, 25% of those involved BUI.
In fact, the incidence of BUI in Florida tends to be quite predictable, with 4th of July celebrations being one of the peak periods. However, any holiday or long weekend period in Florida tends to be a time when the likeli-hood of BUI violations goes up. It is important to understand how BUI and alcohol consumption works on boats since there are some slight differences between normal, road-bound vehicles and boats that can be much larg-er, such as yachts and other watercraft capable of carrying many passengers.
It is against the law to be drunk while operating a boat. However, it is not illegal for the driver of a boat to con-sume alcohol. This is also true of passengers; if a party is actually taking place on a boat then the consumption of alcohol is permitted by the passengers.
One exception to this, however, is the status of the waters the boat is in. On open waters, the laws as laid out by the state of Florida hold, and as long as the boat operator remains sober, alcohol consumption is okay. However, if the boat should go into private waters, where, for example, open containers of alcohol are not per-mitted, then the boat and the people on it must abide by those rules, or face a ticket and fine.
Avoid The Consequences
A BUI is punishable in the eyes of the law, the same as a DUI. More seriously, however, both types of violations place the boat operator at a severe disadvantage in an accident if blame is being assigned and damages have to be paid as financial compensation. If you find yourself in a boating accident where a BUI may be involved, get help! Talk to an accident lawyer experienced with boating accidents and get informed and prepared