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RyanB

Vessel Safety Checks?

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RyanB

Can someone explain why a Park Ranger, Coast Guard, or the like is allowed to conduct a vessel safety check without any probable cause?  If I am driving my car and get pulled over for speeding, and the officer asks if he can look through my car, I can politely refuse, and that is the end of it.  In a boat, you can be going down the lake (or even just floating for that matter), breaking no laws, and be pulled over and have them go through everything.

And no, I am not mad that it happened to me (it has been years since this has actually happened to me), but I am just curious why it seems that on the water that particular Constitutional Right isn't as strong?

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kerpluxal

In a car, if something happens 9 times out 10 you step onto land.. Also in a car, if you are not wearing your seat-belt you will get pulled over. In a boat if something happens,, you are going down.. It is not required to have your life jackets on... If you don't have them aboard then you are breaking the law and the only way to know is if they check.. I have never been boarded for a safety check.. so they are not rummaging through my stuff.. I show them what they want and move on.. 99% of the time they just want to see jackets.. then they take my numbers down and leave me alone for the rest of day.. and since I mainly boat on one body of water they never pull me over anymore...

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Brad B

The USCG Does annual voluntary safety checks at our marina. Its a good way to make sure you're 100% compliant with no consequences if not. It also makes it much less likely to get pulled over later - they just wave at you.

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MalibuNation

In Michigan they passed a law maybe 5 years ago that you can't be pulled over unless you are doing something wrong similar to driving a car as there were too many complaints about this happening.  Law enforcement still pull boaters over for no reason.  I know several people who work at the sheriff department and they tell me the sheriffs on horse back patrol and doing marine patrol are a joke.

 

Edit: I'm pro-law enforcement.

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isellacuras

Thanks @teamerickson for the links. Both of those explain the coast guard. Anything on the park rangers ability to board?  That's what we deal with around here. On our local lake, we have 3 jurisdictions, maybe 4. State parks, Sacramento county sheriff, el dorado county sheriff (all of which i have seen regularly) and possibly placer county sheriff (which i have never seen but the north for lies, at least partially, in their jurisdiction.). I don't mind a safety check but i do t want them boarding my vessel if they are not permitted to do so. 

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TallRedRider
1 hour ago, RyanB said:

he can look through my car, I can politely refuse, and that is the end of it.  

 

It seems to me that although we have this constitutional right against unlawful search and seizure, a failure to consent to a search is used as a probable cause if they really want to do it.   At least it seems that I have seen it go down that way with acquaintances.  Some big drug busts on our interstate corridor have happened that way.  Starts with a headlight out, then the police deems the perp 'suspicious' for refusing a search and gets a warrant.  If a law enforcement officer wants to search my vehicle, I am happy to oblige for fear it will just escalate.  Most importantly, I have nothing to hide.  

We used to have a water cop that was all about giving 'free' safety checks.  It was very annoying.  He has been shipped to a much less traveled park due to lack of communication skills.  

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RyanB
5 hours ago, kerpluxal said:

In a car, if something happens 9 times out 10 you step onto land.. Also in a car, if you are not wearing your seat-belt you will get pulled over. In a boat if something happens,, you are going down.. It is not required to have your life jackets on... If you don't have them aboard then you are breaking the law and the only way to know is if they check.. I have never been boarded for a safety check.. so they are not rummaging through my stuff.. I show them what they want and move on.. 99% of the time they just want to see jackets.. then they take my numbers down and leave me alone for the rest of day.. and since I mainly boat on one body of water they never pull me over anymore...

I appreciate your response, but my question has nothing to do with on land or sea, or safety in an accident.  It has to do with Constitutional rights.  What prompted my question was a post on another forum where a NPS Ranger kicked a boat off the lake after what was said was an unprovoked search.  They found that their fire extinguisher was out of date.  Which seems like BS to me.  Now there are two sides to the story, and I wasn't there to see how it goes down, but I have been through a full "safety check" on my boat where they look at everything from life vests, to throwable  to fire extinguisher to noise making device, and everything else.

5 hours ago, teamerickson said:

The 2nd part of the 2nd link is interesting.  So, there must be something that extends those powers to local law enforcement like NPS, State and County Rangers?

4 hours ago, isellacuras said:

Thanks @teamerickson for the links. Both of those explain the coast guard. Anything on the park rangers ability to board?  That's what we deal with around here. On our local lake, we have 3 jurisdictions, maybe 4. State parks, Sacramento county sheriff, el dorado county sheriff (all of which i have seen regularly) and possibly placer county sheriff (which i have never seen but the north for lies, at least partially, in their jurisdiction.). I don't mind a safety check but i do t want them boarding my vessel if they are not permitted to do so. 

As I stated above, I think it would be interesting to see how those powers given the cost guard years ago have been expanded to agencies that didn't come into existence until hundreds of years later. 

4 hours ago, TallRedRider said:

It seems to me that although we have this constitutional right against unlawful search and seizure, a failure to consent to a search is used as a probable cause if they really want to do it.   At least it seems that I have seen it go down that way with acquaintances.  Some big drug busts on our interstate corridor have happened that way.  Starts with a headlight out, then the police deems the perp 'suspicious' for refusing a search and gets a warrant.  If a law enforcement officer wants to search my vehicle, I am happy to oblige for fear it will just escalate.  Most importantly, I have nothing to hide.  

We used to have a water cop that was all about giving 'free' safety checks.  It was very annoying.  He has been shipped to a much less traveled park due to lack of communication skills.  

I was pulled over for speeding in South Dakota two years ago.  It was dark, I was headed home from pheasant hunting.  My firearms were visible, the officer asked if I had anything in the car that I shouldn't and I told him no.  He then asked if he could look in the trunk, and I told him no again.  He let me drive away.

My guess is he saw the Colorado plates and was wondering about weed, as that was big news back then.  My reasoning for not letting him search had as much to do with me not wanting to deal with my overly protective dog as my desire for privacy, but I shouldn't have to let them search the car.

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TallRedRider
4 hours ago, RyanB said:

 

I was pulled over for speeding in South Dakota two years ago.  It was dark, I was headed home from pheasant hunting.  My firearms were visible, the officer asked if I had anything in the car that I shouldn't and I told him no.  He then asked if he could look in the trunk, and I told him no again.  He let me drive away.

My guess is he saw the Colorado plates and was wondering about weed, as that was big news back then.  My reasoning for not letting him search had as much to do with me not wanting to deal with my overly protective dog as my desire for privacy, but I shouldn't have to let them search the car.

I am glad that he did not harass you.  I suspect he did not see anything more suspicious and decided you weren't worth the trouble.  

Anyone with California plates and looking like they are trying to fit into a gang would not get off without a thorough search in Utah, even if they refused.  Call it right or wrong, it happens.  It also happens to a lot of folks who don't look like they are trying to fit that mold.  

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FAMILYRIG

At our local lake the sheriffs have come up to our boat a couple times last year.  Each time was a simple show us your fire extinguisher & throw cushion then they proceeded to hand out stickers and coloring books to our kids for wearing there life jackets.  I agree I would not want them boarding our boat for no known cause but so far it has been very pleasant.  

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Sixball

We don't see the Sheriff often on our lake and most of the time when you do its volunteer patrol people who have very little ability to do much of anything. If they find someone intoxicated they call for a sheriff to meet them at the boat launch. But we do see the DNR and they have all the power of a sheriff and more. And yeper I have been sighted from the DNR for skiing without a observer. I always start with 100% respect for any officer I have ever had the misfortune of meeting for business. I was also very surprised to learn that an impoundment is not under the same laws as a lake in Michigan. 

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JeffC
13 hours ago, RyanB said:

I was pulled over for speeding in South Dakota two years ago.  It was dark, I was headed home from pheasant hunting.  My firearms were visible, the officer asked if I had anything in the car that I shouldn't and I told him no.  He then asked if he could look in the trunk, and I told him no again.  He let me drive away.

My guess is he saw the Colorado plates and was wondering about weed, as that was big news back then.  My reasoning for not letting him search had as much to do with me not wanting to deal with my overly protective dog as my desire for privacy, but I shouldn't have to let them search the car.

At the risk of going way off topic, it seems to me like the practical application of the 4th amendment has been inconsistent at best, and at the end of the day, is dependent on the individual officer. 

About 10 years ago, I had difficult experience with our local police.   Every year, we have a cul-de-sac party (potluck, home made ice cream, etc etc,  including some fireworks) on the 4th of July.  We always go off to the city fireworks, then if it is not a work night, a few fireworks on return, then we call it a night.

On that night, we were back about 10:15, and by 10:30, everyone had pretty much called it a night.   My son, and a few of his friends were sitting on our deck drinking SODA (not legal yet).   No doubt they were laughing, but were not loud enough for me to hear them from my living room, where I was on the computer doing some work.   They came into the house, all of them visibly shaken (these were a bunch of high performance high school nerds),   Apparently a city cop came into the gated back yard, and read them the riot act, and accused them of smoking dope.  By then time they came in, he had left. 

I was NOT happy... A bit of research that confirmed my belief that the cop needed a search warrant to enter the gated back yard unless he had reason to believe that there was imminent danger (no such reason existed).   I contacted the LPD, who had the LEO call me to discuss.   He was extremely aggressive, and flat out lied to me, saying that he came to the front door, rang the bell, knocked, and having received no answer, entered the back yard through the gate.    There was NO way he did that, as I was sitting 10 feet from the door when he supposedly rang/knocked.    When I challenged him, he blew it off, saying I was way out of line because no citation had been issued, and that I was making something out of nothing. 

I sent a letter to the mayor that was ignored. 

 I still get worked up telling this story, but it is true that nothing came of it in the end... EXCEPT, I stopped being an annual donor to the FOP.   

 

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JeffC

BTW, in spite of that story, I really liked having the voluntary safety inspection at the ramp.   I have not seen them this year, but I see that they can be arranged by appointment, and I am seriously considering having it done.  To me that fits in the spirit of being safe, without being intrusive.  The sticker that may mitigate the likelihood of an "on the water" inspection (wasting my time), and securing the insurance discount is worth it to me.

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The Hulk
23 hours ago, Brad B said:

The USCG Does annual voluntary safety checks at our marina. Its a good way to make sure you're 100% compliant with no consequences if not. It also makes it much less likely to get pulled over later - they just wave at you.

we had this happen a few years back and i loved it! you get a cool sticker to put on your window, if a DNR or Sheriff approached and saw the sticker they would give thumbs up and drive on..  I wish there was an easy way to get these checks/stickers done each year!

it was a basic USCG safety check to ensure life jackets, whistle, safety flare, paddle stuff like that, they gave you a score card and if you passed "which should be easy" you received a sticker.. Some of the things they score on were not actually required but are "suggested" etc.. 

Edited by The Hulk

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Infinitysurf

To answer your question specifically, its called "implied consent". Just by operating a boat on the body of water, you have given your consent to being boarded/searched. I was just in TN for last 5 days for the Lake Norris trip...and looked up their rules before going and noticed that they also have an implied consent rule about being tested for sobriety....just by being on the water you have given your consent to be tested for ANY reason and if you refuse, there is a separate offense you will be charged with, as well as you "may" loose boating privileges for 6 months....it also says "every TWRA officer has the authority to to stop and board any vessel. They may issue citations. When necessary, they may arrest, on sight and without warrant, any person they see violating a provision of the Boating Safety Act".

I have only been given 1 "safety check".....and it was last year when I was at Lake Norris, TN. We did (not notice) it had gotten dark and were surfing when he came cruising by, due to it being dark we of course did not know he was lake patrol till the blue lights came on. Nice guy, was respectful....asked to see all the safety items (which I had since I am anal about that) and then issued a citation for the night surfing (basic verbage: towing a person behind boat after dark). I always wave when I see lake patrol, figure that makes me look less suspicious and a less like a person that may have something to hide from them, I suppose that it has worked to an extent since I see them fairly frequently on my lake and have not yet been stopped.

FYI....many States require that your "throwable cushion" be within easy reach in case of emergency, some say how many feet it must be within for captain and others are a bit more vague.

Another thing I noticed when looking at TN boating laws(have no idea of other States say this but I found it a little odd).....was that IF your alcohol level is .08 or higher, you are NOT allowed to "manipulate ski's or other towable's"....I took that to mean if you are drunk, you are also not supposed to be surfing, wakeboarding, etc.

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RyanB

@Infinitysurf thanks for the info.  I wonder if that "implied consent" has ever been tested in court?  And couldn't a state make the same argument for you just driving a car on the road?  I just don't understand how those laws would stand up to the 4th Amendment.

I did read about the throwable within reach - it is a law in Utah, where we frequently boat.  I never knew that one until a thread similar to this came up on another forum.  I need to be more mindful of that.

This thread did make me realize my boat, bought new, didn't come with a fire extinguisher.  Decided to change out the one on my fishing boat at the same time.  Amazon should have them here today.

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JeffC
9 hours ago, Infinitysurf said:

To answer your question specifically, its called "implied consent". Just by operating a boat on the body of water, you have given your consent to being boarded/searched. I was just in TN for last 5 days for the Lake Norris trip...and looked up their rules before going and noticed that they also have an implied consent rule about being tested for sobriety....just by being on the water you have given your consent to be tested for ANY reason and if you refuse, there is a separate offense you will be charged with, as well as you "may" loose boating privileges for 6 months....it also says "every TWRA officer has the authority to to stop and board any vessel. They may issue citations. When necessary, they may arrest, on sight and without warrant, any person they see violating a provision of the Boating Safety Act".

I wonder if "implied consent" has been tested.   Seems to me that the 4th amendment is pretty clear, and that "implied consent" may be unconstitutional.

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

But, I am not a lawyer, and I didn't stay at a holiday inn express last night.   I suspect that if you were charged with something as a result of a implied consent search, then you MIGHT be able to get the charge thrown out (just like evidence gathered without a warrant can be excluded.   Of course, if you allow the ranger to board and search you, then maybe not...

Im a simple guy... Do not put myself in a position to be charged (safety gear on board, not drunk at the helm, etc etc), and I wont have an issue.  I support the intent, if not the method.   I also sometimes wave at the rangers (I generally wave to other boaters), and in fact have been known to strike up a conversation with them when I have a question.   This past Saturday I asked them about jet skiers jumping my wake behind a surfer... The answer was a little cloudy (they must maintain a "safe" distance - whatever that means).   They suggested that in the future if it happened I could call in a description of the ski to the visitor center, and they would radio that out to one of the ranger boats.    Im not THAT guy, but I will not tolerate  a jet ski jumping my wake 25 yards behind my boat... I just shut down, and tell them to get lost.  

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JeffC
Just now, RyanB said:

@Infinitysurf thanks for the info.  I wonder if that "implied consent" has ever been tested in court?  And couldn't a state make the same argument for you just driving a car on the road?  I just don't understand how those laws would stand up to the 4th Amendment.

I did read about the throwable within reach - it is a law in Utah, where we frequently boat.  I never knew that one until a thread similar to this came up on another forum.  I need to be more mindful of that.

This thread did make me realize my boat, bought new, didn't come with a fire extinguisher.  Decided to change out the one on my fishing boat at the same time.  Amazon should have them here today.

Wow... I think there is an echo in here  :-)

Funny, I just realized Saturday that my trailer did not come with a safety chain.    Seems I need to fix that asap - I actually had a winch strap snap on my Crownline. 

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RyanB

@JeffC I have my safety gear as well (for the most part, with the obvious exception of the fire extinguisher in the Malibu).  But I would have a problem being kicked off a lake because the extinguisher in my Lund was 11 years old, and some arbitrary thought is that they expire at 10 years.  Or be fined for not having my throwable within a certain distance, and they only found that out because the Ranger chose to go through everything on my boat.

Just in principal, I wouldn't consent to a search of my car.  Or my home.  Or my RV.  Why is my boat different?

In regard to your safety chain, my Malibu didn't come with one either.  I put one of these on.  https://smile.amazon.com/BoatBuckle-Retractable-Tie-Down-2-Inch-43-Inch/dp/B000C5HFCE/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1529333867&sr=8-7&keywords=boat+bow+strap&dpID=41sdA1kfltL&preST=_SY300_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

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JeffC
8 minutes ago, RyanB said:

@JeffC I have my safety gear as well (for the most part, with the obvious exception of the fire extinguisher in the Malibu).  But I would have a problem being kicked off a lake because the extinguisher in my Lund was 11 years old, and some arbitrary thought is that they expire at 10 years.  Or be fined for not having my throwable within a certain distance, and they only found that out because the Ranger chose to go through everything on my boat.

Just in principal, I wouldn't consent to a search of my car.  Or my home.  Or my RV.  Why is my boat different?

In regard to your safety chain, my Malibu didn't come with one either.  I put one of these on.  https://smile.amazon.com/BoatBuckle-Retractable-Tie-Down-2-Inch-43-Inch/dp/B000C5HFCE/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1529333867&sr=8-7&keywords=boat+bow+strap&dpID=41sdA1kfltL&preST=_SY300_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

I resemble that... I really liked that I caught the day when the USCG was doing voluntary checks when I had the Crownline... and gave me the sticker for the boat, which would hopefully obviate the need to do a random safety check.     Just me, but I really question whether implied consent would stand up...  But you would have to have the time and $$ to challenge it in court, which would not be easy or cheap I am sure.

RE: the boatbuckle... I literally had just found those, and was about to ask whether they were any good... seems like you already answered that question for me already!  Time to order...  Did you replace the mounting hardware?  At least in the reviews, that seemed like the weakness...

Edited by JeffC

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RyanB

@JeffC I dont remember doing anything to the mounting hardware. I had one on my CL as well. 

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JeffC

So the answer of whether the idea of implied consent has been tested looks like a definite maybe.    A quick google search yields a WHOLE BUNCH of hits... most of which seem to be relative to automobile DUI.    Narrowing to boats, again, I found a bunch of BUI references.     Here is a good one:

https://www.iowaappeals.com/iowa-supreme-court-finds-a-warrantless-breath-test-while-operating-a-boat-was-involuntary-and-violated-the-iowa-constitution/

Again, I am no lawyer, but my feelings on this are not mixed.   When it comes to BUI, challenging the constitutionality of a breathalyzer check looks like a stupid legal trick to avoid the charge.   If a cop on the road, or a ranger on a lake has observed drunk behavior, that to me is probably cause.   If you a drunk at the helm, you are not safe, and you should suffer the consequences.   I have seen them on the lake, and they p*ss me off.  

On the other hand a random search of your boat looking for fire extinguisher expiration dates, or proximity of a throw-able is a clear violation of the 4th amendment.    I get that there could be a fine line between clear probably cause and a search that is potentially random, but that is what the court system is for.   Presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Just my opinion... YMMV 

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Jason63
On ‎6‎/‎14‎/‎2018 at 1:37 PM, Brad B said:

The USCG Does annual voluntary safety checks at our marina. Its a good way to make sure you're 100% compliant with no consequences if not. It also makes it much less likely to get pulled over later - they just wave at you.

Agreed!! They will give you a sticker you can put on your windshield or some place noticeable and they usually will leave you alone. Has worked for me for years now!!

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saxton15

I was pulled over two years ago by the coast guard for one of these safety checks.  At the time, I didn't understand why there were pulling us over, but they were articulate in their reason and explained that it was mostly to ensure safe boating practices.  I too had all my gear ready to go, so it wasn't an issue and they were professional.  I got the 2 year "certificate" and we were on our way.  I asked them if they were doing this randomly or on a case by case basis.  They told me they pull every boat over.  

I don't have an issue with this stuff since more and more we're seeing ignorant boating out there.  

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Michigan boarder

I've been pulled over once, no citations, just a routine check.  It was like 25 years ago.  They didn't board the boat but did a thorough inspection.  But I do have a couple of good stories from my younger (and stupider) days:

1)I took my 3 and 4 year old boys for a quick tool around the lake with my wife.  This is an 81 acre lake, and it was just a short ride before we head to dinner.  As we pass the public launch I see a DNR boat in the process of putting in.  We wave.  I know I am the only boat on the lake, so he is going to pull me over...and I have no life vests for the boys.  So I quickly passed the launch and pulled in to the first property just past it and beached it, and proceeded to walk up to their house with my crew.  Introduced myself as "Hi, I'm John.  You don't know me or my family, but we live on the other side of the lake.  The DNR just put his boat in...and, uh...can I hang out with you for a half hour?"  Ended up making a great friendship with the guy (retired) and his kids (my age)...had a TON of fun over the years, that often involved us sharing that story.

2)Wakeboarding weekend with 7 guys in the Echelon at a rented cottage.  After we finally exhaust ourselves, we go to the sand bar and just drink for like 4 hours.  Heading back to the cottage, barely on plane, in a simple straight line in a half mile or so.  We see a DNR boat with two officers heading right towards us from our 7 o'clock.  No other boat in that direction, we are it, and none of us are sober.  We start discussing bail money, impounds, driving record of the driver, etc. but never came off the throttle.  All of a sudden from our 5 o'clock comes a wave runner with 2 girls on it, jumps our wake and passed us within 20 or less feet to our port side, laughing/cat calls at us and waving and hair flying doing like 45 and veers away from us.  Cop boat hits the blue light and throttles up after them, and the cop that wasn't driving just stared at us.  Thanks ladies!!!

I am way smarter than that now, especially navigating on the big lakes that we do.  I would have deserved whatever came my way in either instance.

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