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What Is the Difference Between a DUI and a BUI?

Did you know that operating a vessel while impaired by alcohol or other drugs is a major violation of Florida law?

Believe it or not, it’s true. And, if suspected of operating a boat under the influence, officers can require you to pass a sobriety test. Failure will result in a specific boating ticket, known as a BUI – boating under the influence.

This offense is actually just as serious as a DUI, issued for drunk driving. And it can have major impacts on your future, especially if you’re an avid boater. Read on to learn about the difference between these two charges, and the penalties associated with both.

Boating Under the Influence

Under Florida statutes, any boater suspected of operating a vessel while intoxicated can be subjected to either a physical or chemical test to determine how much alcohol is in their breath or blood. This could include field sobriety tests. Like blowing into a breathalyzer and even having blood drawn.

If they determined that the operator is legally intoxicated. Meaning they have a blood or breath alcohol level at or above .08. Then the officers could charge them with a BUI offense.

Also, they can file BUI charges under some special circumstances. Like, when a boat driver has less alcohol in their system. For example, if they determined that the operator is under the influence of drugs other than alcohol.

Also, if they find any boat operator under 21 years of age to have a blood or breath alcohol level of .02 or higher. They can charge them with a BUI.

Understanding BUI Charges

If you have a BUI charge in Florida, you can expect the state to prosecute your case aggressively. In most cases, they will seek the maximum penalty. This varies based on how many BUI offenses you have received.

  • First BUI Offense – This misdemeanor may result in a fine of up to $1,000, and up to 6 months of jail time
  • Second BUI Offense – Also a misdemeanor, this charge is associated with fines of up to $2,000, and up to 9 months in jail
  • Third BUI Offense Within 10 Years – This third-degree felony charge can result in up to $5,000 in fines, and 5 years of jail time
  • Third BUI Offense More Than Ten Years After Prior Conviction – This misdemeanor charge is associated with a fine of up to $2,000, and up to 1 year in jail

In addition to the penalties listed above, all Florida BUI convictions are associated with a minimum probation period of one year per offense. Terms will include monthly reporting to an assigned officer, community service, and drug and alcohol counseling.

This probationary period may be extended for repeat BUI convictions.

Aggravated BUI Charges

In some cases, they might consider BUI charges aggravated. For example, if the vessel operator has a blood or breath alcohol level of .15 or higher. Plus, they can apply these more serious charges if the person suspected of BUI has prior DUI convictions. Or if they have another drug-related offense on their record.

The term aggravated may also indicate that a BUI incident involved other factors that enhance the severity of the crime and its penalties. This might include:

  • BUI incidents resulting in property damage
  • BUI incidents that cause bodily injury or death
  • If the BUI incidents involve a minor

Aggravated BUI charges associated with property damage are first-degree misdemeanors. And they carry maximum penalties of $1,000 in fines and a one-year jail sentence. If you cause bodily injury, this is a third-degree felony, which could lead to a fine of up to $5,000, and jail time of up to 5 years.

A BUI that leads to the death of another person the law may consider BUI manslaughter. This second-degree felony can result in fines of up to $10,000 and up to 15 years in jail. And, if a BUI suspect leaves the scene of a boating accident. Rather than rendering aid to injured victims. Then they could face a first-degree felony, with fines of up to $10,000 and jail time of up to 30 years.

The Difference Between DUI and BUI

Simply put, the primary difference between boating and driving under the influence is what kind of transportation is being used – a boat or a car.

The two crimes carry similarly serious penalties. Though a BUI won’t necessarily impact your legal ability to drive. And unfortunately, in both DUI and BUI cases, the punishment begins well before conviction. Because they will likely arrest you, impound your vessel or vehicle, and face serious financial consequences.

Both first-time DUI and BUI charges will result in hefty fines, probation, a tarnished legal record, and potentially court-ordered counseling. Even worse, repeated DUI and BUI offenses can lead to felony charges and extended jail sentences.

No matter which type of charges you’re facing, it’s essential to act quickly. Your criminal record will show both misdemeanor and felony offenses. Potentially making it difficult to rent or buy a home, find a good job, or attend college.

It’s also important to note that the court can combine a history of DUI and BUI convictions, leading to aggravated charges and higher penalties. And, you’re unlikely to win your case without legal aid!

Florida BUI Defense

If you’ve received a charge of DUI or BUI, or need legal defense in Florida, you’re in the right place.

We have a team of dedicated attorneys and legal experts at RHINO Lawyers to help each client win their case. And, we have decades of experience working with people just like you.

Contact us or call (844) RHINO-77 today for a free case review or virtual consultation. We can help with auto accident and personal injury claims, criminal defense, and much more.


RHINO Lawyers can help and guide you through a system molded by law enforcement, judges, and lawyers for decades. Having won cases for our clients in similar circumstances, our criminal defense team knows what it takes to fight on your behalf.

Let RHINO Lawyers answer your questions and review the facts of your case with a Free Consultation. So, get started by completing the “Free Instant Case Evaluation” or by calling us any time, day or night, at (844) RHINO-77.