A previous post on this blog talked about how someone who was likely thought of us a community leader recently found himself in trouble because of a boating under the influence charge.
Since Hillsborough County and the Tampa area are along the coast and also have several inland waterways boaters can enjoy, it may do them some good to understand how Florida's drunk driving laws apply to boaters.
In many respects, boating under the influence is similar to driving while intoxicated. If a boater is caught operating a vessel with blood alcohol content over .08, then the law will presume they were too drunk to operate a boat safely, and significant criminal penalties, including the possibility of jail time, will follow. It should be noted that those under 21 who are caught operating with more than .02 BAC can face legal penalties, since such people really shouldn't be drinking at all.
In other respects, though, boating under the influence rules are a bit different, and Florida residents need to be aware of these differences. One of the most important differences is that, generally speaking, in order for a police officer to stop a car, he or she has to have seen a violation of a traffic law or witnessed other suspicious behavior.
On the other hand, Florida law allows officers who are patrolling waterways to stop a boat and come aboard simply to check to make sure the boat has appropriate safety equipment on it. In the course of these safety inspections, if an officer sees evidence of boating under the influence, then he or she can start an investigation.
Drunk boating charges can have just as serious of an effect on a person's professional and personal lives as a drunk driving allegation. Those who are facing a boating under the influence charge should consider speaking with an experienced criminal defense attorney about their options.