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Yesterday was Independence Day!  My friends and I threw a cooler of beer on the boat and headed out to the local sand bar for an afternoon of swimming and partying!  Responsibly, one of my friends stayed sober so we could make the drive back at the end of the day.  That's when we met Officer Frank of the Lake County police department...  

As we made our way out of the no-wake zone a Lake County police boat passed us going the other direction.  Moments after passing us their lights flipped on and we were pulled over.  Asked why we were being pulled over we were told for a safety inspection.  "No thanks," is what I wanted to respond, but not wanting to cause any problems we obliged.  His first concern was that our boat was overloaded.  Well, our capacity placard indicated the boat was suited for 15 passengers, we had 12.  We had room for an additional 25% more people.  Pass.  Then he wanted to verify we had all the required equipment:  A life jacket for everyone, Pass.  A throw cushion, Pass.  Covers on our battery terminals, Pass.  A fire extinguisher, Pass.  Registration card, Pass.  Still not satisfied he asks my friend to put one of the life jackets on and step across onto the police boat for a sobriety check.  First sobriety check, Pass.  Second sobriety check, Pass.  Third sobriety check, Pass.  Still not satisfied my friend was then asked to blow into the breathalyzer...  Pass.  Finally, it appeared the officers ran out of bait in their fishing expedition and let us on our way.

When asked how he can legally continue to require so much of us when we clearly hadn't violated any laws we were told to look up our laws.  So when we got home I did.  According to the Illinois Boating laws (and I wouldn't be surprised if many other states have the same laws) officers are allowed to pull over and perform a safety check on any vessel at any time.  The law also states that operating a boat on Illinois waters gives "implied consent" to be tested for alcohol and controlled substances.

So my question is do Illinois Boating Laws supersede the 4th amendment of the United States Constitution?  This amendment protects us from undo search and seizure (harassment) from authorities.  To be fair, I believe we were pulled over simply because it was the 4th of July and the police were out looking to give DUIs, but what stops a racist cop from profiling minorities and harassing them on Illinois waters?  In any other circumstances the 4th amendment would be protecting these people, are we not due the same rights on public water?

Before people begin giving the "Boating is a privilege and not a right" line I want to ask, is owning a house privilege or a right?  If it's a right then why do I not own a house? lol  If it's a privilege then can the police enter our homes at any time for a "safety inspection?"

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Comment Preferences

  •  USCG has the same requirements. (18+ / 0-)

    It's the 4th of July.  Assholes are on the water.  Deal with it.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Thu Jul 05, 2012 at 07:03:50 AM PDT

  •  And the police can set up sobriety checkpoints (10+ / 0-)

    wherever and whenever they want.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Thu Jul 05, 2012 at 07:04:34 AM PDT

    •  In NM they also set up insurance/registration (3+ / 0-)


      Notice: This Comment © 2012 ROGNM

      by ROGNM on Thu Jul 05, 2012 at 07:23:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Nope (3+ / 0-)

      At least, not in all states.  Such checkpoints are unconstitutional, for example, in Oregon and Washington. There may be others.

      •  Was speaking IL specific. Should have said so. ;) (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Melanie in IA, OIL GUY

        "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

        by zenbassoon on Thu Jul 05, 2012 at 07:35:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  The States Are Allowed to Give Higher Protections (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        elmo, Ernest T Bass

        The states are allowed to give higher protections than the 4th Amendment, which is simply the bare minimum. So a check point could be invalidated under Oregon law or under the Oregon Constitution but not under the U.S. Constitution. Our country is really a patchwork of 50 different sets of laws and court systems.

        "The problem with posting quotes off the Internet is you never know if they're genuine."--Gen. George Washington at the Battle of Gettysburg, February 30, 1908

        by Aspe4 on Thu Jul 05, 2012 at 07:48:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Right -- unconstitutional under state constitution (0+ / 0-)

          Not federal

        •  State v. Federal Constitution (0+ / 0-)

          Exactly. The state constitution may guarantee MORE protection of individual rights than the federal constitution, but never less. This is why some state supreme courts have held that a ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional under the state constitution (Mass. and Iowa, for example), without having to consider constitutionality under the federal constitution.

          The Illinois Supreme Court has held that when the language of the state constitution is identical or virtually identical to the federal constitution (as is true of the search and seizure clause), it will construe the state constitution in "lockstep" with the U.S. Supreme Court.

          So, when it comes to search and seizure questions, there is no difference in application between the 4th amendment and the Illinois Constitution.

  •  Why I think this officer was (9+ / 0-)

    more than a bit overzealous. I have no issue with them or the Coast Guard having the ability to do safety inspections. I have seen far too many idiots in boats posing a danger not only to themselves, but their passengers and other boaters.

    And the house analogy fails on the merits. Your house is not a moving object.  

    Republican Family Values: Using the daughters from your first wife to convince everybody that your second wife is lying about your third wife.

    by jsfox on Thu Jul 05, 2012 at 07:10:33 AM PDT

  •  No, a state could not make purchasing (8+ / 0-)

    a home contingent upon giving consent to have police search it at any time. The Fourth Amendment specifically mentions homes and the right to privacy is at its zenith within your home.

    A boat is more like a car for Fourth Amendment analysis:

    •  Correct...If You Own A Boat... (12+ / 0-)

      and keep it trailered on your property, they cannot arbitrarily check it.

      The act of putting the boat into public navigable waters does.

      •  Really? (0+ / 0-)

        Your house sits in front of a public street and rises into public airspace.  Can you park your unregistered car on your private properly?  Nope.

        •  In Most, If Not All Places... (0+ / 0-)

          you can.

          Have you had a car or boat ticketed for not being properly registered while on your property?

          If you have gotten a ticket, it was probably not for lack of proper registration but for some other reason.  I am not aware of any state that requires registration for every vehicle owned regardless of the use and location.  A good example is "off road diesel" which is sold in every state that I have been in.  You can own a piece of equipment, tractor or truck and buy diesel for the equipment and you don't pay road tax on it because you never go on public roads.  The equipment doesn't have to be registered with the state because it never leaves your property.  In Maine, some mills have logging roads that never leave their property so they can have any weight on the truck and if the truck doesn't go on public roads doesn't have to be registered.

          If that were the case, every car on a dealer's lot would have to be properly registered.

  •  You are on a boat. So checking (16+ / 0-)

    that you have the right number of life vests, and that your captain is sober is perfectly reasonable. My reaction to your diary is that I'm glad there are police boats out there doing their job.

    •  I don't think the safety check was that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      unreasonable, but I do wonder about 3 sobriety checks plus breathalizer. Why not just skip straight to the breathalizer? I am glad that they do sobriety checks. Drunk boaters are so dangerous. My concern is what about making him leave the boat for the tests. If you only had 1 sober operator, and he left the boat... Were the cops then in control of your vessel?

      •  Coast guard is in control (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        When they board, they tie up against your boat.  Their boat is MUCH MUCH stronger then any recreational vessel (and much better armed) and one officer remains at their helm to steady and control both vessels during a boarding.

        Also 100% prevents you from pulling away (or any inexperienced skipper from damaging either boat).

        Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

        by Wisper on Thu Jul 05, 2012 at 08:02:15 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  So no guest on a boat is allowed to be intoxicated (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    under state law?? Wow!

    "We don't need someone who can think. We need someone with enough digits to hold a pen." ~ Grover Norquist

    by Lefty Coaster on Thu Jul 05, 2012 at 07:15:10 AM PDT

  •  Thanks For Raising the Issue, Especially During (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lina, Wisper

    Independence Day week. :-)

    Here's the text of the 4th Amendment (emphasis mine):

    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.
    The court cases that have weakened the 4th Amendment hinge on what is an unreasonable search or seizure. All states have implied consent laws, that's how they government is able to punish you for refusing a breathalyzer test--the official test at the police station, not the field breathalyzer.

    For police to make a stop, they need reasonable articulable suspicion that you're committing a crime. A driver swerving into the opposite lane of traffic is the typical reason police use to stop DUI suspects driving cars. If the cop had arrested the boat driver for DUI I'm not sure what his excuse would have been for stopping (seizing) you and we'll never know since you didn't get to that point.

    The 4th Amendment is written broadly enough to allow courts to make interpretations which also allows the government to do such things.

    The police often get most of their evidence against defendants by getting them to waive their 4th Amendment rights. They'll ask you innocently if they can search your car or boat in this case. And once you say "yes" then good luck to you!

    "The problem with posting quotes off the Internet is you never know if they're genuine."--Gen. George Washington at the Battle of Gettysburg, February 30, 1908

    by Aspe4 on Thu Jul 05, 2012 at 07:23:10 AM PDT

  •  As crime and indiscriminate murders is down in the (0+ / 0-)

    Chicago area, what else do law enforcement personnel have to do?


    Notice: This Comment © 2012 ROGNM

    by ROGNM on Thu Jul 05, 2012 at 07:25:14 AM PDT

  •  Hmm... I'm gonna guess that the diarist (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Melanie in IA, in the Trees

    has never been

    - Black while driving through a white neighborhood ( Obviously selling drugs):

    - White while driving through a Black neighborhood ( Obviously buying drugs)

    Count yourself lucky- They didn't hold ya there while they got a dog.

    There is VERY WELL ESTABLISHED precedent for this kind of behavior regarding vehicles.

    I dunno- seems late in the game to just be getting pissy about this one.

  •  The constitution is not trumped BUT (0+ / 0-)

    the state has control over their own waters  and it gets tricky because part of the Hudson River is covered by US law and this comes form the definition of navigable waters.  You were asked for a safety inspection and asked to show certain safety objects.  He did not look into bags or purses.  He asked for a lot of objects that go directly to safety. The sobriety check may have to do with the fact that you were in public but again that is probably covered by your State laws.  ANd the big thing is that you consented to him coming on board.  There was no search beyond safety items.  ANd as far as seizure, I do not know if he could have towed your boat in but he did not.  The fourth amendment does not protect you from simple harassment or mean or ornery police.  It simply gives you protection for actual seizure without reasonable cause.  Were any guns drawn?  The police were probably hot and not too happy working on a holiday.  I am glad your boat was safe and that you were able to have a safe excursion.

  •  An interesting question. (0+ / 0-)

    I really have no issue with the USCG or Marine Police doing safety checks, especially for PFDs, but I agree there's a probable cause issue.  Whether on land or on the water, an officer should be required to show probable cause for any search of you or your vehicle.

    In the case of the USCG, I'm a bit sympathetic, because my impression is that they really are trying to keep folks safe; but I'm less confident in the motives and professionalism of the county mounties.  I sure hope this isn't the same Lake County as the Bismark Dinius case .

    You can't spell CRAZY without R-AZ.

    by rb608 on Thu Jul 05, 2012 at 07:37:13 AM PDT

    •  There is no probable cause requirement on water (8+ / 0-)

      Title 14, Section 89 of the US Code.  The USCG can board any vessel (fishing, freighting or recreation) at any time for any reason with or without probable cause regardless of hailing port or nationality.

      This has been the law since Alexander Hamilton was president (although then the fleet was called the "Revenue Marine").

      Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

      by Wisper on Thu Jul 05, 2012 at 07:51:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The Diarist Didn't Specify (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rb608, progressivevoice

        but let's assume he was boating on Lake Michigan and not on a smaller local lake. I also assume the Coast Guard has jurisdiction over Lake Michigan. The diarist said Lake County Police stopped him. Would the local police have the same powers as the Coast Guard?

        "The problem with posting quotes off the Internet is you never know if they're genuine."--Gen. George Washington at the Battle of Gettysburg, February 30, 1908

        by Aspe4 on Thu Jul 05, 2012 at 08:06:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Under State law yes. If the law of the State (0+ / 0-)

          for landlocked waters is the same as the Feds then yes they can do just about anything (for good reasons) they want up to and including what the feds can do.

          The sky is not falling.

          by thestructureguy on Thu Jul 05, 2012 at 09:02:11 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, typically by state law (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          OIL GUY, Aspe4

          (and yes, the USCG has patrolled the Great Lakes in a law enforcement capacity since 1819)

          Most states grant local maritime powers to state law enforcement (Dept of Natural Resources, Fish & Game, State Park Police, etc) to be equal to USCG authority on State water.  

          Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

          by Wisper on Thu Jul 05, 2012 at 10:43:51 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I Was Once Ordered to Stop Zig Zagging My Sailboat (4+ / 0-)

    while sailing upwind. We just kept asking for clarification till we finished tacking out of the passage.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Jul 05, 2012 at 07:37:48 AM PDT

  •  Boaters learn this in every safety class (7+ / 0-)

    State and USCG officers can and will board your boat to inspect anything and everything they want.  What the diarist describes is an ISI (Initial Safety Inspection) but they can go further and search the people and belongings.

    They can also seize property (including the vessel itself) with a far greater latitude if they find anything illegal on it (typically this is drugs).  Their only requirement is to see that the occupants are safely returned to land, whether or not they are the ones being arrested or detained.

    This is why many of us in the sailing community (here on the Chesapeake) have to be vigilant with our friends that want to come out on the water with us that may have some recreational substances on them.  They view spending a day sailing in light wind as a great atmosphere to hangout, drink and possibly light up.  Letting a USCG officer spot marijuana or marijuana use on a vessel in navigable water is a very surefire way to have your boat seized and towed off somewhere leaving you with a huge fine and a lot of paperwork to complete to get it back.

    Im not an anti-drug person by any means, but I would leave my best friend on the dock if I thought there was a chance he would but my boat in jeopardy.

    Maritime laws are not land laws.  Your expectations have to be adjusted accordingly.

    Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

    by Wisper on Thu Jul 05, 2012 at 07:59:02 AM PDT

  •  I'm suprised that you're suprised (8+ / 0-)

    A safe vessel is not a privacy issue.  I'm a boater and I am glad the cops and CG are out on the 4th.

    Its never fun to get inspected and officialdom is always a hassle.  But think of it this way: you're driving a vehicle without any brakes, with a cooler full of booze on board.  

    ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

    by jessical on Thu Jul 05, 2012 at 08:23:35 AM PDT

    •  I'm always grateful for the USCG and Water Police (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      What some people will do out there on their boats is amazing to me.  

      You no brakes + cooler of booze analogy is spot on.  Add to that, you are in an icy parking lot full of other equally brakeless and boozed up vehicles.  And the skill level of the drivers ranges from "Driver's Ed." to Mario Andretti but you have no way of telling who is who.    --Good Luck!

      Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

      by Wisper on Thu Jul 05, 2012 at 10:56:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  meh... (6+ / 0-)

    you haven't lived until you've been rafted off a 50 coast guard boat while in a 16 ft fishing boat and asked (asked... yah right) to do a sobriety check in a healthy 2 ft Muskegon Lake chop by a group of kids barely out of high school but still in uniform so they gots a little  "AUTHORITAH" and want to make sure you know they gots a little "AUTHORITAH".  It's kind of a rite of passage.

    A learning experience is one of those things that says, 'You know that thing you just did? Don't do that.' Douglas Adams

    by dougymi on Thu Jul 05, 2012 at 08:28:33 AM PDT

  •  I wonder how often yachts get pulled over. (0+ / 0-)

    If that happened, Muffy and Thurston might call their friends in the city government and make a stink.  

    "I'm going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid." - Muad'Dib

    by Troubadour on Thu Jul 05, 2012 at 09:41:57 AM PDT

    •  We get pulled over A LOT (0+ / 0-)

      Go out on the Chesapeake Bay on a weekday and you can almost count on at least getting a close up "pass-by" visual inspection from the Coast Guard.  

      Not a lot of boats out there so they take note of anything they see.

      On weekends or particularly holidays they focus more on egregious behavior, safety and alcohol.

      We sail-boaters get a little more leeway because if you are sailing a large sailboat you probably are much more informed and experienced then the average small powerboating "weekender".

      Also over-powered motorboats have a higher risk of serious injury in an accident then my sailboat that tops out at about 13mph.

      ...however, large sailboats do get heavily scrutinized for over-crowding or ignoring life-jacket requirements for guests.

      Look at what happened in Long Island Sound over the 4th to see Exhibit A of why they USCG is picky on this.

      Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

      by Wisper on Thu Jul 05, 2012 at 10:53:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A boat is more like a car than a house (0+ / 0-)

    I think a boat is more like a car than a house and so the rules for cars would apply rather than houses. It's still might be unconstitutional, but that's the better standard.

  •  Public waters, right? (0+ / 0-)

    Just as the state can set conditions on driving on public roads, they can set conditions on sailing on public waters.

  •  Neither here no there (0+ / 0-)

    but interesting. I was in Key West in the early 90's and went into a t-shirt shop. They were selling a tee that said "Beware The Water Nazis". As I recall it had a huge cutter, armed to the teeth and the CG emblem was like the old SS insignia.  They were hovered over some poor guy in a row boat. According to the store owner the shirts were very popular with the local Coast Guard personnel. They thought it was great.

    Going to sea is like going to jail with the added chance of drowning.

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