Citrus Heights, CA asked in Admiralty / Maritime and Criminal Law for California

Q: Hello, (Ref: Maritime PIRACY law vs. Civil/Criminal Law)

Recently, in San Fran Bay Area, the Oakland/Alameda Island Estuary (a salt water navigable U.S. Waterway), has had incidents of "so-called" PIRACY. (Boats are being burglarized).


Which law enforcement agency has jurisdiction, U.S. Coast GUARD or local county SHERIFF?

Is following statement true?:

"IN OAKLAND ESTUARY, burglarize any TIED UP IN PORT boat, which is NOT out @anchor = NOT PIRACY.

(Its only a local Sheriff + ins claim only, NOT Coast Guard PIRACY matter.)

But, if boat is out-at-anchor, not a tied up in-port moored boat, then YES =PIRACY & Coast Guard USCG jurisdiction.


@Port Burglary =NOT PIRACY, not USCG jurisdiction.

@Anchor Burglary =PIRACY! Yes, USCG jurisdiction.

Interesting, eh?

Thank you,

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In the Oakland Estuary, both the U.S. Coast Guard and the local county Sheriff can have jurisdiction, but for different reasons and circumstances. The distinction between a boat being tied up in port versus being out at anchor doesn't necessarily determine whether an act is piracy under U.S. law. Typically, piracy, as defined under international and U.S. federal law, refers to criminal acts committed on the high seas. In practice, if a boat within the estuary, whether tied up or at anchor, is burglarized, the local county Sheriff would primarily handle it as a local crime. The U.S. Coast Guard has authority to enforce federal laws on navigable waters, but boat burglaries in local waters might not necessarily invoke their jurisdiction as "piracy." It's crucial to consider the specific facts and circumstances of each incident to determine appropriate jurisdiction. If there are concerns about maritime security or jurisdictional issues, consulting with local law enforcement and the Coast Guard can provide clarity.

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