Chapter 4: The Legal Requirements of Boating
Alcohol and Drugs
Florida's laws against boating while impaired by alcohol or other
drugs are as strict as those for driving a vehicle while impaired.
Florida law prohibits anyone from boating under the influence (BUI).
That is, it is illegal to operate any vessel or to manipulate any
water skis, sailboard, or similar device while intoxicated due
to alcohol or any combination of alcohol, a controlled substance,
or drugs. Alcohol and drugs cause impaired balance, blurred vision,
poor coordination, impaired judgment, and slower reaction time.
Alcohol is a major contributor to boating accidents and fatalities. Read
more about the risks of consuming alcohol in Chapter 5.
Florida law states that a person is considered to be "under
the influence" if he or she has a blood alcohol concentration
of 0.08 or higher, or is under the influence of alcohol and/or
drugs to a degree which impairs his or her normal abilities.
A blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 to 0.08 also may indicate
a person is "under the influence" if accompanied by
other competent evidence.
Florida law establishes the following penalties.
- Those convicted of operating under the influence of alcohol
or drugs will:
- Be fined up to $500 and imprisoned for up to 6
months for a first conviction.
- Be fined up to $1,000 and imprisoned for up to
9 months for a second conviction.
- Be fined up to $2,500 and imprisoned for up to
one year for a third conviction.
- If involved in a boating accident causing property damage,
injury, or death while boating under the influence,
the operator has committed a felony.
- By operating any vessel on Florida waters, you have consented
to be tested for the presence of alcohol, drugs,
or other intoxicating substances if requested by a peace officer.
Refusal to submit to testing is punishable by a
civil penalty of $500 and is also a crime if you have ever been
fined for a previous refusal.
Florida law has special provisions for operators under 21 years
- It is unlawful for a person under 21 years of age who
has any measurable blood alcohol concentration
(0.02 or higher) to operate a vessel.
- If convicted, those under 21 years of age will be required to complete 50
hours of public service, attend and successfully complete an approved
classroom boater education course (even if one has been completed previously),
and successfully complete a four-hour online course specifically for
violators. The convicted person will lose his or her operating privilege until
all requirements are completed.
- A person under 21 years of age who refuses to submit
to a breath test after a warning will be subject
to performing 50 hours of public service and may not operate
a vessel until the public service is completed.
Florida takes a strong stand against underage drinking while operating a vessel.
Commonly referred to as the ".02 Law," those boaters under 21 years
of age who are found with a measurable breath alcohol level of 0.02 or higher
are subject to receiving a citation with minimum mandatory sentencing. If a
person under 21 is above a 0.08 breath alcohol concentration, he or she also
can be charged with BUI.
Any person who is convicted of BUI can be fined up to $5,000 and be sentenced
to one year in jail if he or she had a blood alcohol or breath alcohol concentration
of 0.15 or higher or was accompanied in the vessel by a person under 18 years
of age at the time of the offense.
There is a $250 reward for information leading to a BUI arrest. Call *FWC from a mobile phone, or 1-888-404-FWCC (3922).
Areas of Impairment Due to Blood Alcohol
Because you can drink faster than your system can burn
off the alcohol, there is an increasing level of alcohol in your blood.
This level is referred to as Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC).