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Old 27-01-2014, 08:00   #1
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USCG Legal Search Question?

I'm curious about USCG searches upon a boat. I am very familiar with personal rights and searches on land in the U.S. but I know that changes drastically on board a vessel.

This question only applies to U.S. waters and not to any international or foreign countries.

On board I like to keep a speed safe (digital quick access safe you'd usually put a gun in, and no I'm not planning on putting a gun in it) I like to keep them for things like wallets, keys, wedding ring, valuables etc.. I have it more so I know where everything is and so they won't get misplaced. The safe is not hidden very well and is not meant to be.

If I get boarded by the USCG can they demand I open it? I know on land they would 100% need a warrant but I'm assuming that does not apply at all on the water. I don't need to hide anything and in all honesty they can look at whatever I bring on board but from a legal stand point do you really have any rights or protections on the water anymore?
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Old 27-01-2014, 08:09   #2
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re: USCG Legal Search Question?

I can't provide a cite but I'm 99.9999% sure that the USCG can board and search a US flagged vessel anywhere on the planet. If you won't open the safe they will chain saw it out of the boat and/or torch it open.
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Old 27-01-2014, 08:19   #3
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re: USCG Legal Search Question?

You have no rights off shore! I have a friend that was a jerk to them 80 miles off N.C. and they ruined his day! They ended up doing the search and wasted 4 and 1/2 hours of his day. I recommend inviting them aboard and showing them courtesy and you will have a much more pleasant experience. JCAPO is 1000000% correct they can with a USA flaged vessel. AND this is nothing new its been this way for many years.
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Old 27-01-2014, 08:22   #4
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re: USCG Legal Search Question?



11

Sorry, but when it comes to Coast Guard boardings, you don’t have any rights.
I’m surprised how many boaters don’t know this. The US Coast Guard can board your boat any time they want, and look anywhere they want, without probable cause or a warrant. They can do this on the open sea, or while you’re asleep aboard in your marina at midnight. They can look through your bedsheets, in your lockers, in your bilges, in your jewelry box, or in your pockets. They can do it carrying just their sidearms, or they can do it carrying assault rifles. They can be polite about it or they can be rude, but mostly they’re polite.
If you’re an avid boater you can expect to be boarded every year or two.
I explain this to my guests aboard Condesa, some of whom are lawyers, and I’m met with disbelief: “But that’s a blatant violation of your constitutional rights! They need probable cause, or a warrant from a judge!”
“Not on a boat, my friend, not on a boat.”

All photos courtesy of US Coast Guard
The U.S. Coast Guard Boarding Policy:

Title 14 section 89 of the United States Code authorizes the U.S. Coast Guard to board vessels subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, anytime, any place upon the high seas and upon any waterway over which the United States has jurisdiction, to make inquires, examinations, inspections, searches, seizures, and arrests. The U.S. Coast Guard does not require a warrant to conduct search, seizures, arrests over any United States Waterway or high seas. The U.S. Coast Guard also have full legal law enforcement power on any land under the control of the United States, as needed to complete any mission.
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Old 27-01-2014, 08:40   #5
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re: USCG Legal Search Question?

this question always confuses me they're just doing their job if you have nothing to hide why would you not open it for them so you can move on with your the coast guard is always welcome to look anywhere they want on my boat

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Old 27-01-2014, 08:55   #6
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re: USCG Legal Search Question?

Quote:
Originally Posted by scuba0_1 View Post
this question always confuses me they're just doing their job if you have nothing to hide why would you not open it for them so you can move on with your the coast guard is always welcome to look anywhere they want on my boat

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As I stated in the OP I don't have anything to hide and was curious about rights on board.

For some back ground on the reason I ask is I am a Certified firearms instructor and am very familiar with laws regarding searches, warrants, and so on, on land. If a leo wants to come in my house for whatever reason by law I do not have to let them in unless they have a warrant. And if I let them in my house for whatever reason they cannot open anything and can only observe what is in plain sight. Unless they have a warrant.

Due to being an instructor and also due to my other backgrounds I do not have anything to hide and they can look all over my boat all they want. What I didn't want to happen is to confuse my rights on land with my rights on the water and get in a world of trouble (hence the question)

On land I'd tell them to pound sand and close the door in their face just because I can. Now through doing some research and getting some answers about the subject if I were on my boat I would offer them a beer and ask if they wanted a snack. I'm just crossing my t's and dotting my i's
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Old 27-01-2014, 08:55   #7
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re: USCG Legal Search Question?

We have been boarded by USCG twice, once just off Miami coast on our way to Belize. They sneaked up on us at nite quietly at the starboard aft and then identified themselves. The next question was: Do you have firearm on board? We said no and come on board. They told us to maintain the same speed and heading. One officer went down below deck to make sure no others below. They didn't do a search at all, just check all documents and inspect safety equipment. They were professional and friendly. We also saw their mother ship trolling near by. We chatted and they left.

We have nothing to hide.
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Old 27-01-2014, 09:14   #8
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re: USCG Legal Search Question?

i was boarded in san diego on mooring by uscg with dog...bubba didnt like it much.
seems someone in mooring field made false calls and was trying to divert attention from that by naming names falsely so the attention would be on us..lol..the clear water was reported to have oil and effluent on surface ........ he was proven to be a false caller, so it worked out well....

we are not protected by constitutional rights when living on boat ..even if in us waters. we are fair game for search and seizure.
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Old 27-01-2014, 09:14   #9
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re: USCG Legal Search Question?

Be friendly and respectful. Make sure you do have nothing to hide. The more cooperative you are, the smoother it will hopefully go. But they do have the right to search everything and require no search warrant. Don't make the mistake of somehow making them over zealous which will take your time and may even cause some disarray or even damage to your boat.

Now back to the land and search warrant. Yes, you can say no just as you can on a car. But if they have cause to be there, then they'll get the warrant and do it. If you have nothing to hide still better to cooperate. Hopefully, when they leave they'll be apologizing for inconveniencing you. Now if you do have something to hide it's definitely a different story.
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Old 27-01-2014, 09:19   #10
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re: USCG Legal Search Question?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ontherocks83 View Post
As I stated in the OP I don't have anything to hide and was curious about rights on board.

For some back ground on the reason I ask is I am a Certified firearms instructor and am very familiar with laws regarding searches, warrants, and so on, on land. If a leo wants to come in my house for whatever reason by law I do not have to let them in unless they have a warrant. And if I let them in my house for whatever reason they cannot open anything and can only observe what is in plain sight. Unless they have a warrant.
i's
Not directly an answer, but it may add to or adjustment your understanding. It may depend on where you are located. A lot has changed post 911. there have been fairly broad and sweeping changes, unfortunately with little attention by media. The ACLU has been challenging some regs which have come to be known as "Constitution Free Zones". This basically includes a 100 mile line along the perimeter of the united states, the "transition" zone between the coast and the interior.
Here's the Link:
https://www.aclu.org/know-your-right...-free-zone-map
and
https://www.aclu.org/technology-and-...tion-free-zone
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Old 27-01-2014, 09:36   #11
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re: USCG Legal Search Question?

I did a recent blog post about USCG, Homeland Security, or Border Patrol boarding frequent around Morgan City and Houma, La, and copied an article from sailfeed.com about your rights (or lack of) on privacy on a boat under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution and the reasons why.

Contact your Congressman or Senator and try and get the law changed.
Stop Suspicionless Searches of Pleasure Vessels
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Old 27-01-2014, 09:46   #12
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re: USCG Legal Search Question?

I do understand the OPs question and understand that on land there are a different set of rules for entering and searching. Typically on land an officer requires either a search warrant or reasonable and probable grounds. Most of you agree that if you have nothing to hide just stand back and let the authorities do their job. I disagree with this. I believe those powers are too far reaching and too liberal in nature.

Let me ask you all this question and see if you still agree. Your employer is asking for you to submit to a drug testing procedure. You have never done drugs or abused alcohol. Do you still submit to the test or ask your employer to provide you with the reasonable and probable grounds that would lead them to believe that you should submit to a drug test.

I am of the opinion that unless you have grounds leave me alone. This is of course does not have anything to do with checking your safety items. I totally disagree with the no grounds authority to board and search your vessel anytime.

Thoughts?
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Old 27-01-2014, 09:52   #13
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re: USCG Legal Search Question?

Most companies put a proviso in their contract that you have to submit to a UA at any time they request. No probably cause needed. The US govt. has gotten the insurance companies to do their dirty work. Some companies even require blood and or hair submissions to be tested. It's a brave new world!
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Old 27-01-2014, 09:53   #14
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re: USCG Legal Search Question?

So getting back to the OPs question. I am of the opinion that unless you can prove or even suspect that I have a gun in the safe, or I am breaking some laws, leave it alone, get off my boat and bugger off.

Giving officers too much authority opens the door for abuse of that power.
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Old 27-01-2014, 09:54   #15
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re: USCG Legal Search Question?

You will find yourself face down on your deck, while they search your boat, safe and all.
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