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Old 04-03-2009, 12:41   #1
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law of the seas

does anyone KNOW the law regarding police/coast guard bording one's boat? who has the right todo so---coast guard? local water cops? who and in what situations?
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Old 06-03-2009, 09:20   #2
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Your question is a bit vague, so not easily answered. A lot depends on jurisdiction. Generally speaking within a country's territorial waters, that country's coast guard can board any boat; this can extend to the contiguous zone for certain law enforcement/customs requirements, or the exclusive economic zone if required for resource management. With police forces, it again depends on jurisdiction. In BC for instance, the RCMP cannot board without reasonable cause. Do you have a specific locale in mind?
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Old 06-03-2009, 09:27   #3
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We just had a thread about this topic. I cannot seem to find the thread. It was about someone in Florida who was boarded by the land police who according to his story, were very rude, to put it mildly.

Would someone find this thread please? Many of your answers are in this thread Defever.

To answer one of your questions, the US Coast Guard can board your boat in domestic waters without probable cause. This has been upheld by the US Supreme Court.


As an aside, although you may be gritting your teeth underneath, its always best to take a friendly approach to law enforcement who approach you and start asking questions. People who display a negative attitude usually make things worse for themselves. Cops are humans too and have the option to let you go or to make your life worse if you come across with a bad attitude.
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Old 06-03-2009, 09:59   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David M View Post
We just had a thread about this topic. I cannot seem to find the thread. It was about someone in Florida who was boarded by the land police who according to his story, were very rude, to put it mildly.

Would someone find this thread please? Many of your answers are in this thread Defever.
Two threads, actually:

Run in with Charleston County Police

Water cop update

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Old 06-03-2009, 10:18   #5
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Actually, I believe that the USCG can board ANY US flagged vessel, ANYWHERE. That's why the US Navy carried USCG officers so that they can board any vessel they might come across. This was particularly useful in the anti drug efforts around Central America and the Carribbean.
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Old 06-03-2009, 10:29   #6
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If USCG wants to board a vessel that is not US flagged they contact the country of the vessels registration and get permission to stop and search. it is always granted, if they find dope they remove the crew and sink it if it is very far at sea.
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Old 06-03-2009, 10:54   #7
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If USCG wants to board a vessel that is not US flagged they contact the country of the vessels registration and get permission to stop and search. it is always granted, if they find dope they remove the crew and sink it if it is very far at sea.

SINK IT ?? never heard that one!
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Old 06-03-2009, 10:58   #8
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Yep, they have done it in the past with boats loaded with dope.
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Old 06-03-2009, 11:08   #9
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here's how it works. Based on the Maritime Drug Law, Act 41, United States Code, app 1901, the Coast Guard routinely boards foreign and stateless vessels during drug patrols. Before boarding, they obtain consent from either the captain of the vessel or the country which flagged the vessel. The U.S. has bilateral agreements with all Central and South American countries, as well as most other countries around the world, to do this.
If a foreign flagged vessel is caught with contraband, the U.S. works with the flagging state to decide which country should take further action. In some cases the vessels and smugglers might be turned over to the country that flagged them, and the boat taken back to that country.
However, if the Coast Guard seizes a smuggling vessel far from shore, and if the flagging country doesn't want to take control, they indeed routinely scuttle such vessels. The authority to scuttle a vessel not yet prosecuted can be found at 14 USC, 88, (a) (4). The Coast Guard advises that such vessels are not sunk as punishment, but because they are too far to tow to shore and, if left drifting, would pose a hazard to navigation.
Prior to scuttling, everything of evidentiary value is removed. While this is going on, the Coast Guard remains in constant contact with the U.S. Attorney, who remains in contact with the government that flagged the vessel.
Fuel and other contaminants are not removed from vessels that are to be scuttled because it would be "inherently dangerous" and because Coast Guard vessels aren't equipped to do so. As such, vessels are scuttled "intact, in deep water, and at a great distance from shore." If the Coast Guard caught a cruising boat smuggling drugs far from shore, they would scuttle her just as readily as they would sink a Central American fishing boat
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Old 06-03-2009, 11:14   #10
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So far everyone is pretty close. I am retired Coast Guard. The USCG can board any vessel in US waters, and any US vessel anywhere. see U.S. Coast Guard Boarding Policy If the US vessel is in another countries waters they need authorization from that country to enter their waters but not to board. If they wish to board a non US vessel outside of US waters they need what is called a statement of no objection from that country. These are given as a matter of course particularly if it may involve drug, arms or human smuggling, piracy or terrorism.

Also the USCG is the only law enforcement agency in the US that has such authority. Customs may board and search but their authority is slightly (very slightly I might add) less. A lot of things can be done in (what the law calls) a customs zone that can't be done legally anywhere else in the US.

Here is a post I made on this subject on another forum that was asked by a police officer who had been boarded.

Quote:
Coast Guard Petty Officers and Officers are law enforcement just like you, but the rules are a little different. They are empowered to enforce all Federal laws on vessels on waters subject to US jurisdiction (which is not all waters in the US by the way) and on all US Vessels anywhere else in the world. They are also by law, Officers of the Customs which gives them the same authority as a customs officer and border patrol. (Oddly enough the CG is also empowered to carry the mail) They can board and search without probable cause and can arrest or detain and seize a vessel if necessary (I had to do that once, believe me it is not great fun explaining to the legal types why you seized someones boat.)

Yes they will ask about guns. But as you know from experience that is for their own protection. No it is not illegal to have guns on your boat except in places like New York City and DC. But that is before the supremes as we speak.

As was said most are professional and courteous, but as always with human beings there is always some who lets a little authority go to their head. If a complaint is filed about abuse it will be investigated! If the boarding officer was wrong I can assure you some chief petty officer will have their ass for breakfast.

But as was also said, no one likes a ration of sh** and if you give the boarding officer a hard time well he's just going to push back.

However, in training all CG personnel are required to familiarize themselves with a letter that Alexander Hamilton wrote to the first Officers of the Revenue Cutter Service (the Coast Guard) part of which says this:

"While I recommend in the strongest terms to the respective officers, activity, vigilance and firmness, I feel no less solicitude, that their deportment may be marked with prudence, moderation and good temper. Upon these last qualities, not less that the former, must depend the success, usefulness and consequently continuance of the establishment in which they are included. They cannot be insensible that there are some prepossessions against it, that the charge with which they are intrusted [sic] is a delicate one, and that it is easy by mismanagement, to produce serious and extensive clamour, disgust and odium.

They will always keep in mind that their countrymen are freemen, and, as such, are impatient of everything that bears the least mark of a domineering spirit. They will, therefore, refrain, with the most guarded circumspection, from whatever has the semblance of haughtiness, rudeness, or insult."

The full letter is at http://www.uscg.mil/history/regulations/hamiltonletter.html

We always had it pounded into us that authority is a precious commodity and if you abuse it, you lose it.

As I said in my previous post, heave too, invite them aboard, let them get about their business, offer them a cup of coffee or a soda. Have your safety gear out where they can look at it, make sure everyone on board is above deck where they can be seen, and don't be intoxicated (goes without saying) unless you are already anchored or tied to the dock.

No, they won't point guns at you unless you do something stupid like trying to outrun them (in which case you just might get a 50 caliber through your engine), ram them or make other threatening actions, all of which as a retired cop you are familiar with.

In fact, other than the no probable cause rule, Search and seizure, the rules are pretty much the same as any law enforcement agency. You know, miranda and all that, (although didn't the supremes toss out miranda a few years ago?)

I might add that the Commandant of the Coast Guard takes a very dim view of coasties who abuse their authority, or don't treat law abiding citizens with respect. He has made several statements to that affect. I know him. He means what he says.

You should also be aware that if you are mistreated you can file a complaint with the district legal officer or the USCG legal office in HQ in Wash DC. Any USCG unit can give you the address or phone number. They will investigate first with the crew of the vessel that boarded you and talk to the boarding officer's superiors. These are not taken lightly.
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Old 06-03-2009, 11:21   #11
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I have been boarded by them several times and it was a positive and professional experience each time, getting up in the face of any law man is never going to go well for you.
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Old 06-03-2009, 12:43   #12
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Coast Guard can board you anywhere, and do what they want. If they abuse their authority, you can complain, and they will investigate it. Here is my personal experience with this:
Home land security?
As for other law enforcement agancies, it depends where you are. In our area, the local cops are under the impression that they can not board a documented vessel without invitation. Even to serve a warrant. This has been proven by several stand offs where they could not serve a warrant until the person came off the boat. I believe there is enough ambiguity that they are taking the more conservative approach in order to protect their case.
The Coast Guard here has agreed to allow boaters to say no when they are at dock, but they have stated that they do not have to do this.
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Old 06-03-2009, 13:00   #13
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I confess I have very little faith in complaints to the same agency whose forces may (or may not) have been at fault. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

I say nothing about the USCG, with which I have NO experience. But cops investigating cops about a citizen complaint is -- to my mind -- an invitation to a whitewash.

I believe there is considerable evidence to support that view.

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Old 06-03-2009, 14:19   #14
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We have positive experiences with the coastguards of many nations incl. Venezuela and Colombia. I would put the USCG in that list if it wasn't for what they do in PR. Am I wrong in thinking that this is USCG? Or is this some PR version of it?

Regular USCG (outside PR) has always been very friendly and never even boarded us.

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Old 06-03-2009, 14:47   #15
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My account was of USCG in California.Specifically Monterey Bay
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