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?"