Florida, known for its numerous waterways and expansive coastlines, is often portrayed as the perfect place for boating with a drink in hand. However, the Sunshine State takes boating safety seriously, and that includes drinking while operating a boat.
Understanding Florida's boating and drinking laws
Much like operating a car, operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs is subject to both state and federal laws. Florida requires boaters born after January 1, 1988, to complete a boating safety course to obtain a boating license.
It’s against state law to operate any type of vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This applies whether you're on a jet ski, motorboat or any other watercraft. In Florida, being considered legally impaired by alcohol means having a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .08 percent or higher. This limit also applies to drivers on the road, making the rule consistent across different modes of transportation.
While you're allowed to have an open container on a boat (unlike in a car), the level of intoxication is the same. Operating a boat under the influence can lead to significant fines, jail time and the suspension of your boating and driver's licenses. Sobriety tests can be conducted if you're suspected of being under the influence while operating a boat.
Boaters who cause accidents while under the influence may also be liable for civil damages. Negligence per se is a legal doctrine that simplifies the process of proving negligence in certain cases. It applies when a defendant's violation of a statute, regulation or law directly causes harm to another person, and that harm is the type the law was designed to prevent—such as these drinking and boating laws. In such cases, the defendant is automatically presumed to have acted negligently, making it easier for the plaintiff to prove their case.
If you’ve been injured thanks to a boat operator under the influence, contact a knowledgeable Sarasota, FL accident attorney at Goldman, Babboni, Fernandez, Murphy & Walsh today.