DUI & Criminal Division

Florida BUI Penalties

January 27, 2023


a. Refusing Breath, Blood or Urine Test –

  • Civil Penalties for 1st refusal = $500 fine. Failure to pay within 30 days is a 1st degree misdemeanor; punishable by up to one year in jail, one year probation and $1000 fine.
  • Criminal Penalties for 2nd Refusal – 1st degree misdemeanor to refuse a breath, blood or urine test if the officer believes you are BUI and you’ve been previously been fined for a prior BUI refusal. BUI refusals are very different from DUI refusals. BUI refusals don’t count towards later DUI refusals and vice versa.
  • Impounding or Immobilization – Just vessels are impounded for BUI convictions, not your car.
  • Drug Evaluation and Treatment – For a BUI conviction the operator is required to complete a drug evaluation and treatment as a condition of probation. It doesn’t affect his driver’s license.
  • Community Service Hours – a 1st time BUI must perform 50 hours of community service, and cannot “buy-out” his time.
  • Mandatory Adjudication – Judges are forbidden to accept a plea to a lesser offense from a person charged with a serious BUI offense. For BUI violations, a judge can’t accept a plea to a lesser offense if the operator has a 0.16 BAC or higher.
  • Leaving the Scene – 3rd degree felony to leave the scene of an accident if there is an injury to a person; 2nd degree misdemeanor if there is only property damage.

b. Criminal Penalties for BUI – A person will be found guilty ofBUI if that person is under the influence of alcoholic beverages or a chemical or controlled substance to the extent that their normal faculties are impaired, or have a blood or breath-alcohol level of 0.08 or above.

  • First-time offender – $1000 fine, up to 6 months in jail, probation up to 1 year, drug evaluation and any treatment recommended, 50 hours of community service, and the vessel impounded for 10 days.
  • Second conviction- $2,000 fine, up to 9 months in jail. If the second conviction occurs within 5 years after the date of 1st conviction, mandatory jail term of 10 days. As a condition of probation, 30-day vessel impoundment or immobilization of any one vehicle registered in the defendant’s name for a period of 30 days (though, this impoundment or immobilization can be dismissed if it would cause a hardship to a third party).
  • Third conviction – If the 3rd conviction is within 10 years of a prior conviction, it’s a 3rd degree felony; minimum mandatory 30 days imprisonment. As a condition of probation, 90-day vessel impoundment or immobilization of any one vehicle registered in the defendant’s name for a period of 90 days (though, this impoundment or immobilization can be dismissed if it would cause a hardship to a third party).
    If the third conviction is outside of 10 years from a prior conviction, fine of $5,000 and up to 12 months imprisonment.
  • If boater commits a fourth offense, regardless of timing, that person has committed a third degree felony. Any fine imposed will not be less than $2,000

Penalties are greater if damage is done to the property or person of another, and are far greater if someone dies as a result of a person operating a vessel under the influence (BUI manslaughter).

  • BUI Manslaughter – 2nd degree felony: up to 15 years in jail and $10,000 fine.
  • BUI Manslaughter, if the boater fails to give information or render aid – 1st degree felony: up to 30 years in jail and $10,000 fine.


  • PBT’s – preliminary breath tests with a portable breath/alcohol analyzer are presumed accurate and results are admissible in BUI prosecutions.
  • Penalties – It is illegal for someone under 21 to operate a vessel with a BAC of 0.02 or higher. When an officer believes that someone under 21 is BUI, the laws of implied consent apply. That officer may ask the individual to submit to a test to determine their breath-alcohol level (BAC).i) If someone under 21 refuses, the officer warns that person that refusal will result in 50 hours of public service, and that they will not be allowed to operate a vessel until those hours have been completed.ii) If convicted of BUI, a person under 21 is subject to 50 hours of community service, will be prevented from operating a vessel until those hours of community service are complete, and will be required to complete a boating safety course.

Rolando A. Sanchez, Esq.

Originally from Miami , grew up in Central Florida.  After high school, he joined the U.S. Air Force where he worked on F-15E fighter jets as an Avionics Technician.  He was Honorably Discharged. Afterwards, he attended University of Central Florida and received a BSBA Finance Degree, cum laude.  Next, he attended Barry University for law school and among other things, served as V.P. of the Veterans Legal Society.  Since graduating in 2016, Mr. Sanchez has dedicated his career to helping those charged with criminal matters.  These cases include traffic, misdemeanors and felonies, including trials and post-conviction relief. Mr. Sanchez is the lead attorney in Ticket Clinic’s Kissimmee office, handling cases in Osceola, Polk, Hardee and Desoto Counties.