Pinellas drunken boating? What you need to know…

An old article from the Tampa Bay Times which discussed how Pinellas county practices heightened BUI enforcement on major holidays. With spring and summer fast approaching and boating season coming soon, now is the time to learn more about “drunken boating” throughout this county.

BUI, or Boating Under the Influence, is a serious problem, especially here in Florida, which has more registered boats than any other state in the union. It is common knowledge that driving a car with an open container of alcohol is illegal. However, on a boat it is not illegal to have open cans of alcohol. In fact, if you are driving the boat, you are allowed to be drinking alcohol…yet you are NOT allowed to be “drunk” or over the legal limit of a .08 BAC.

Captain Tom Shipp of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission concurs,
“A lot of people don’t think twice about it, but whether you are in a boat or a car, the impairment is still the same.”

To combat the dangers of drinking and boating in Pinellas county, local law enforcement increases their man power on major boating holidays such as labor day, memorial day and the big one, July 4th. “We see an increase nationally during the summer months and statistically, alcohol-related arrests and accidents peak on the Fourth of July.” said John Fetterman, who works for the National Association of Boating Law Administrators.

Why the crackdown? Law enforcement studies have determined that illegal drugs or alcohol was a factor in over 25% of fatal boating accidents. In addition, drinking in or on the water affects your body differently then drinking on dry land. The experts in the article gave a multitude of examples, which include:

– Alcohol may cause an inner ear disturbance, making it more difficult to determine which way is up. This is a problem for people suddenly thrown overboard.

– Studies have shown that being impaired while boating may be more dangerous then drinking and driving a car. This is because most people are not as experienced boating as driving and may get confused.

– Motor vibrations from the boat engine and wave action are already distracting. Adding alcohol to the mix intensifies these distractions.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR PINELLAS BUIWhile BUIs and driving while impaired have a lot in common, there are a few differences that may affect a possible legal defense. One difference deals with officer contact.

For an officer to pull you over on suspicion of drunk driving while in a car, he needs “probable cause”. He needs to observe you breaking a traffic law (such as speeding) or driving in a way where the officer suspects you may be sick, injured or impaired. On the water, however, law enforcement can board you anytime to make a safety check of your vessel! This means that even if the captain is driving the boat perfectly, he must stop and allow himself to be boarded anytime per law enforcement request. Obviously this means that the only guarantee against picking up a Pinellas BUI charge is not drinking to the point of impairment.

Another big difference between driving drunk and boating has to do with the “field sobriety tests”. The Coast Guard has developed a series of tests that are different from the standard DUI ones such as the “walk and turn” or “one leg test”. According to the Coast Guard, these new impairment tests can all be performed when seated and apply a “percentage of probability” as to if the boater is impaired or not.

Finally, another main difference is in the punishments. Both DUI and BUI have similar fines, probation periods, community service and threat of jail time (up to six months in the pinellas county jail for a first offense under .15 BAC). Punishment for driving a car under the influence will include a DUI school driving course. For those convicted of “Boating under the Influence” you will be required to take the Coast Guard Boater Safety course as well as pay an extra fine of $151 (in addition to regular court costs) to the Brain and Spinal cord fund.

In conclusion, when it comes to Pinellas BUIs, knowledge is power. Knowing that you can be boarded anytime, be aware of how much you are drinking. If you have had a few drinks and are not sure if you can pass the field sobriety tests then have a sober friend drive call a tow!

Have you or a friend been arrested for BUI? Then call the Pinellas county criminal defense lawyers ofBlake & Dorsten, P.A. today! These former prosecutors have handles 100s of DUI and BUI cases. The St. Petersburg DUI attorneys of Blake & Dorsten, P.A. handle all criminal and personal injury cases throughout the gulf coast of Florida including St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Indian Rocks beach, South Pasedena, Treasure Island, Johns Pass, Seminole and Reddington Shores.

To talk directly with your lawyer click on the contact button or call 727.286.6141 now! Blake & Dorsten, P.A…when your case matters!

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