Florida’s Boating and Alcohol Laws
According to Florida’s boating and alcohol laws, it is illegal in the state of Florida to operate any boat, or to manipulate any waterskis, sailboard or similar device, while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, controlled substances or a combination thereof.
In Florida, a person is considered to be under the influence if:
- They are found to have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level of 0.08 or higher (A BAC level of 0.05-0.08 may also indicate that an operator is under the influence, if accompanied by other evidence).
- They are under the influence of a substance which impairs their abilities.
It is illegal for any person under the age of 21 who is found to have a BAC level of 0.02 or higher to operate, or to be in actual physical control of, any boat.
In Florida, a person convicted of operating a boat while under the influence will be subject to the following penalties:
- Upon a first conviction, they will receive a fine from $500 and jail time for up to 6 months.
- Upon a second conviction, they will receive a fine from $1,000 and jail time for up to 9 months.
- Upon a third conviction:
- A person convicted of operating under the influence within 10 years of a prior violation, will be guilty of a 3rd degree felony.
- A person convicted of operating under the influence for a 3rd time, more than 10 years after a prior violation can receive a fine from $2,500 and jail time for up to 12 months.
If an operator is involved in an accident as a result of operating under the influence, which results in death, injury or damage to property, they can be convicted of a felony.
Any person operating a boat who has a BAC level of 0.15 or higher or who is impaired and accompanied on the boat by a person who is under the age of 18, could be fined a minimum of $1,000 to upwards of $4,000 and could receive prison time for up to 12 months.
Penalties for Minors
A person under the age of 21 who is convicted of boating under the influence will be subject to the following penalties:
- 50 hours of community service.
- An order to refrain from operating any boat until the community service has been completed.
- A requirement to attend and successfully complete an approved Boating Safety Education Course.
Any person operating a boat on Florida waters is deemed to have given consent to a test or tests to determine if they are impaired by alcohol, drugs or other intoxicating substances. Refusal to submit to testing is illegal, and can result in a fine of $500.
Florida’s Law Enforcement Authority
Boating laws in Florida are enforced by:
- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and its officers.
- County sheriffs and their deputies.
- Any other authorized law enforcement officer.
Law enforcement officers have the authority to stop your boat to ensure that you are complying with state and federal laws. Law enforcement also have the authority to order the removal of boats that are considered to be an interference or a hazard to public safety.
Florida’s Mandatory Education for Violators
Florida law requires any person convicted of two, non-criminal boating safety infractions, within a period of one year, or any person convicted of a non-criminal boating infraction that resulted in a boating accident, to enroll in and successfully complete an online, or classroom-based, NASBLA/state-approved Boating Education Course (home study courses do not meet the requirement). The course must be completed following the second violation and proof of course completion must be filed with the Commission’s Boating and Waterways section.
Any person convicted of a boating violation, which resulted in a reportable boating accident, or a person convicted of a criminal boating violation must complete an approved 4-hour Boating Safety Course for Violators (in addition to the Boater Education Course described above). The violators course must be taken through a specified state of Florida-approved online course.
Violators will also have their operator’s privileges suspended until proof of course completion has been filed with the FWC.