Boat Sober or Get Pulled Over

Drinking on boat

As spring turns to summer, thousands of Floridians and visitors to the region will head to the boat ramp eager to enjoy the state’s waters. Unfortunately, many boaters will operate vessels while under the influence of alcohol. 

The United States Coast Guard (“USCG”) reports that alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. In 2019, alcohol intoxication was the leading factor in 23% of deaths on the water in the United States. 

The numbers in Florida are even worse. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (“FWC”) reports 32% of boating fatalities in Florida were determined to be alcohol or drug related for the same period.

BUI in Florida

Vessel operators suspected of operating under the influence must submit to sobriety tests and physical or chemical test to determine blood- or breath-alcohol content. Much like Driving under the Influence (“DUI”), it is unlawful to operate a vessel in Florida waters with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08% or higher. 

Additionally, any person under 21 years of age who is found with a breath-alcohol level of .02% or higher and is in operation or control of a vessel is in violation of Florida law.

BUI penalties for a first conviction can range from a fine of $500 to 6 months in prison. DUI penalties for a first offense are identical. Penalties increase substantially with each additional offense for both violations.

Just this past April the FWC arrested 10 people on charges of boating under the influence at Boca Bash. Every year, the gathering draws thousands of boaters to Lake Boca to participate in one of the largest parties on the water. The festival has been criticized for widespread BUI and dangerous behavior. Those arrested will, at a minimum, face steep fines and potential jail time.

Learn more about Florida BUI laws on our resource “5 Facts About Boating Under the Influence in Florida.”

Reporting Intoxicated Operators

Both the USCG and the FWC patrol Florida’s waterways year-round for impaired operators. Operators will face arrest if found to be operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs. To report people who are operating boats dangerously or while impaired, call 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) or email

Contact Our Office for a Free Consultation

If you are injured in a boating accident where the operator was under the influence, you can contact our office for a free evaluation. We have recovered millions on behalf of our clients. Get the dedicated, personalized representation you deserve. Call Mase Mebane Seitz at (844) 627-3529 for a free case consultation.