Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Lifeline If You've Been Arrested for BUI in St. Petersburg, FL

St. Petersburg Criminal Attorney and Former State Prosecutor Melinda Morris of the Morris Law Firm discusses the next steps to take after a BUI arrest in St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, Tampa, Hillsborough County and the Tampa Bay Area, Florida.


The summer in St. Petersburg, Florida brings the heat and boating, and while in most cases a day on the water can be a pleasurable experience, mixing alcohol with captaining a vessel can be dangerous and a significant legal issue.  A Coast Guard study indicated that alcohol use in reported accidents accounted for 31 percent of all boating fatalities.  Further, the study estimated that boat operators with a blood alcohol concentration above 10 percent are thought to be more than 10 times as likely to be killed in a boating accident than boat operators with no blood alcohol concentration.

Why This Matters To You:

With over 587 miles of coastline in Pinellas County alone, the State of Florida takes ensuring the safety of boaters very seriously, and thus strictly enforces Boating Under the Influence (BUI) laws through the Pinellas County Sherriff’s Office, the St. Petersburg Police Department, the U.S. Coast Guard and various other law enforcement agencies throughout the Tampa Bay Area.

Boating Under the Influence as defined in Florida Statue 327.35:
  1. A person is guilty of the offense of boating under the influence if the person is operating a vessel within this state and:
    1. The person is under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any chemical substance set forth in s. 877.111, or any substance controlled under chapter 893, when affected to the extent that the person's normal faculties are impaired;
    2. The person has a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or more; or
    3. The person has a breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or more.

Boating Under the Influence carries harsh penalties, thus having a few drinks while out on the water should not be taken lightly.  In fact, there are penalty enhancements for the crime of BUI in cases where a minor is on the vessel which is a common occurrence.  Additionally, you may face the impoundment or forfeiture of your vessel.

Based on a BUI arrest there are several potential defenses in your DUI case:

1) 1) Driving - being intoxicated will not classify a BUI charge; the prosecutor must be able to prove the defendant was actually driving. This may be challenging, especially when accidents are involved.
2) Probable Cause - proof will be inhibited if the law enforcer did not have legal cause to halt, impede, and detain.
3) Miranda - convicting declarations may be inhibited if restraints were failed to be mentioned at the proper time.
4) Implied Consent Warnings - if the law enforcer did not warn you of the penalties of declining to take a chemical test, or gave it inaccurately, this may affect acceptability of the test results -- as with the license suspension obliged by the motor vehicle division.
5) Illegal Stop – if the law enforcement officer did not have a legal reason to stop you in the first place.

What To Do Next:

If You Are Pulled Over for Boating Under the Influence (BUI):

1.  Refuse any Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) and/or Breathalyzer tests (know and fully understand the consequences of this action on your driver’s license and any civil penalties)
2.  Don't speak to the police - ask to have an attorney present.
3.  Don't give a written statement – again, ask to have an attorney present.
4.  Contact an attorney immediately.


Hire the Morris Law Firm as your BUI Attorney and we will aggressively fight your BUI arrest.  BUI consequences can be far reaching, including, but not limited to: Jail time; Civil penalties and fines, Probation; Forfeiture or Impoundment of your vessel.

If you have been arrested for BUI in St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, or Tampa, Hillsborough County FL, contact a St. Petersburg BUI Attorney to discuss possible defenses that may exist in your case. Call the Morris Law Firm at 727-388-4736 to discuss your case directly with an attorney.