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Boating Under the Influence - It's Illegal and Dangerous

July 1, 2019 | Category: Boating

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) 2018 Boating Accident Statistical Report shows that the number of registered vessels in Florida increased slightly to 950,740 in 2018, making Florida the leader in the nation in registered vessels. There are also up to one million non-registered vessels actively using Florida’s waterways.

Boating Under the Influence - It's Illegal and Dangerous - Spivey LawThe negative consequence of high vessel numbers and Florida’s beautiful weather makes Florida rank number one in the number of boating fatalities in the nation. In 2018, there were 56 fatal boating accidents, which resulted in 59 fatalities. Alcohol and/or drug use played a role in 19 percent of the boating fatalities.

The 2018 FWC statistical report said that around sunset on March 29, a 14-foot vessel was headed East on the Caloosahatchee River. The 59-year-old operator did not see two pilings that were used to hold up a slow speed/25 mph sign just east of the Edison Bridge. The vessel wedged in between the pilings, crushing the sides of the vessel inward. At impact, the operator and occupant were thrown to the vessel floor. Authorities say alcohol was a contributing factor in the accident.

FWC officers are working to stop boaters from boating under the influence (BUI). On the three-day 2019 Memorial Day weekend, the officers arrested 13 people for BUI in Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota and Manatee Counties.

FWC patrols the waters, making sure boaters are being safe and responsible. Just as party-goers on land are encouraged to have designated drivers, the FWC encourages boaters to have a designated operator if alcohol is available on their boats.

Florida Statute 327.35 has established penalties for those convicted of operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. These penalties are:

  • Fines up to $500 and imprisonment for up to six months for a first conviction.
  • Fines up to $1,000 and imprisonment for up to nine months for a second conviction.
  • Fines up to $2,500 and imprisonment for up to one year for a third conviction.
  • If involved in a boating accident causing property damage, injury, or death while boating under the influence, the operator has committed a felony.
  • By operating any vessel on Florida waters, you have consented to be tested for the presence of alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicating substances if requested by an officer. Refusal to submit to testing is punishable by a civil penalty of $500 and is also a crime if you have ever been fined for a previous refusal.

Randall Spivey, Naples Boat Accident Attorney, says, “Should you or a loved one be injured because of the negligence of a boat operator, please contact our experienced legal team. Many boating accidents in Florida, resulting in injury or death, are subject to maritime law because they occur on navigable waterways. This makes it even more important to contact an experienced attorney who can review the case, as these cases deal with a highly specialized area of the law with which many attorneys are not familiar.”


Naples Boat Accident Attorney, Randall L. Spivey is a Board Certified Trial Attorney – the highest recognition for competence bestowed by the Florida Bar and a distinction earned by just one (1%) percent of Florida attorneys.  He has handled over 2,000 personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout Florida.  For a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal rights, contact the Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A., in Lee County at 239.337.7483 or toll free at 1.888.477.4839,or by email to  Visit for more information.  You can contact Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, Charlotte County at 941.764.7748 and in Collier County 239.793.7748.


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