Q: What about my 4th and 5th amendment when the DNR and Coast guard stop you and perform a unwanted search of your vessel
The standard on the water is a different one than applied on the nation's roadways with motor vehicles in terms of constitutional law elements. The U.S. Coast Guard has broad powers to board vessels. Good luck
A: The Fourth Amendment may protect the citizen, law abiding or not, from the threat of an “unwarranted” search on land, but that protection largely ceases once the citizen is on a vessel. The Coast Guard has sweeping authority to board any vessel at any time, any place. It does not require a warrant or probable cause. Boarding need not be based on a suspicion that a violation already exists aboard the vessel. The purpose is to prevent violations and the courts have upheld this authority. The Coast Guard also has legal authority on any land under the control of the United States, as needed to complete any mission. 14 USC 89 has its roots in the Revenue Service Act of 1790 which provides “all collectors, naval officers, surveyors, inspectors and the officers of the revenue cutters . . . to go on board ships in any part of the United States . . . for the purposes of demanding manifests . . . examining and searching the said ships, and the officers shall have free access to the cabin and every other part of the vessel . . .” This statute was passed by the first Congress, the same Congress that enacted the Bill of Rights, including the Fourth Amendment with its guarantees for citizens to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures. By enacting the Revenue Service Act, the first Congress showed unequivocally that the Coast Guard’s law enforcement authority to board and search a U.S. flag vessel anywhere in the world, as well as vessels intending to call on U.S. ports, were consistent with the Fourth Amendment. U.S. Courts over the last 200 years have consistently validated the right of the Coast Guard to board and inspect vessels, probable cause or not. Refusing permission for the Coast Guard to board may subject you to a fine of $500. Forcibly resisting is a felony punishable by ten years in prison and a $10,000.00 fine.
Tim Akpinar agrees with this answer
Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.
The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.
Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.