It appears the officers did not ask for permission to board, which they must do and they can board if consent is not given, but they must request permission to inspect. The sheriff’s office response says nothing about asking permission.
Here is the Florida law:
Florida Vessels Code Section 327.56 – Vessel Safety – Safety and marine sanitation equipment inspections; qualified.
Title XXIV VESSELS
Chapter 327 VESSEL SAFETY
327.56 Safety and marine sanitation equipment inspections; qualified.–
(1) No officer shall board any vessel to make a safety or marine sanitation equipment inspection if the owner or operator is not aboard. When the owner or operator is aboard, an officer may board a vessel with consent or when the officer has probable cause or knowledge to believe that a violation of a provision of this chapter has occurred or is occurring. An officer may board a vessel when the operator refuses or is unable to display the safety or marine sanitation equipment required by law, if requested to do so by a law enforcement officer, or when the safety or marine sanitation equipment to be inspected is permanently installed and is not visible for inspection unless the officer boards the vessel.
Thank goodness we ICW sailors have you to thank for keeping us up to date !
We are staying at Amelia Island Yacht Basin..Florida…and everyone here is super nice.
The Coast Guard patrol keeps it’s boats here and they are very pleasant and have never asked to check our boat. They even join us at Saturday night get togethers.
Luckily, we can not say enough good things about all these people !
Thanks you for being there when we need you !!
This is only the begining!
More details than you probably want to know…
Deliveries & Instruction-Power & Sail
New Smyrna Beach FL USA
s/v Island Time (Beneteau 352#277)
327.53 Marine sanitation.
(1) Every vessel 26 feet or more in length which has an enclosed cabin with berthing facilities shall, while on the waters of the state, be equipped with a toilet. On a vessel other than a houseboat, the toilet may be portable or permanently installed. Every permanently installed toilet shall be properly attached to the appropriate United States Coast Guard certified or labeled marine sanitation device.
(2) Every houseboat shall be equipped with at least one permanently installed toilet which shall be properly connected to a United States Coast Guard certified or labeled Type III marine sanitation device. If the toilet is simultaneously connected to both a Type III marine sanitation device and to another approved marine sanitation device, the valve or other mechanism selecting between the two marine sanitation devices shall be set to direct all sewage to the Type III marine sanitation device and, while the vessel is on the waters of the state, shall be locked or otherwise secured by the boat operator, so as to prevent resetting.
(3) Every floating structure that has an enclosed living space with berthing facilities, or working space with public access, must be equipped with a permanently installed toilet properly connected to a Type III marine sanitation device or permanently attached via plumbing to shoreside sewage disposal. No structure shall be plumbed so as to permit the discharge of sewage into the waters of the state.
(4)(a) Raw sewage shall not be discharged from any vessel, including houseboats, or any floating structure in Florida waters. The operator of any vessel which is plumbed so that a toilet may be flushed directly into the water or so that a holding tank may be emptied into the water shall, while the vessel is on the waters of the state, set the valve or other mechanism directing the sewage so as to prevent direct discharge and lock or otherwise secure the valve so as to prevent resetting.
(b) All waste from Type III marine sanitation devices shall be disposed in an approved sewage pumpout facility.
More information re MSD’s from http://www.law.ufl.edu/conservation/pdf/marine_sanitation.pdf
CENTER FOR GOVERNMENTAL RESPONSIBILITY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, LEVIN COLLEGE OF LAW
I sent this to the Volusia County Sheriff today
Keep up the good work
Good Afternoon Sheriff Johnson,
First have been a strong supporter of you since the time you ran for office. As a boater I am concerned to have read this today and wonder if I should be concerned as we use our boat on the ICW almost every weekend. This is from an on-line newsletter I get and it bring me a chill to think a deputy would board my boat with a weapon drawn.
You should do everything you can to get this boarding story (see below) into the press. This is preposterous and the “officer” should be fired and relieved of his duties.This is the story of a government official run amock.
Kadey Krogen 48-39(5’ draft)
Abuse of power by waterborne law enforcement officers is of concern to all citizens – drawing weapons aboard a civilian craft when no threats were made is inexcusable and in fact might be a good way to get shot. However, the laws are clear that overboard discharge valves must be secured (even with a cable tie) and the citation will probably stand. You can file charges of excessive force against an individual or group of law enforcement officers, but you must be prepared to stand up to the costs both of time and money, and it is not unheard of for accused persons to lie with the courts favoring sworn enforcement officers over civilians. Without a video of the event, you might as well go on with your life and forget it.
I am sure you have other lawyers that regularly read you website. It seems to me that Volusia County was using excess force in a major way. For example, if a deputy pulled a gun on a routine traffic stop, the ACLU would be all over it. I would recommend reporting this to the Florida Attorney General for investigation. I do view Coast Guard stops as different (long conversation, but they have a different mission)
John Fort, JD
As a retired public information officer for Montgomery County Government in Maryland (20 years), I am appalled at how much collateral damage this is for the reputation and image of Volusia. I think the appropriate officials of the jurisdiction would like to know about this and should be informed — not hysterically, but in a matter-of-fact, but serious “you should know” way. Certainly, there is no debate about adhering to laws, but facing off citizens with weapons is frightening and only instilling of fear, which is not the proper role of government.
I also think that the local news media would like to know this. It’s certainly appropriate for them to know and this can be done without jeopardizing any single individual, since they are used to respecting sources, including anonymous ones.
As I said, government’s role is not to intimate people, but to act in the service of the public. Sorry for the lofty-sounding civics lesson, but that’s what my governmental experience was based on.
If I can help in any way, I would be glad to.
I am working on the issue re: MSD boardings…
FWIW my wife is a City Commissioner here in New Smyrna (Judy Reiker) and a good friend of ours just got elected to Volusia County County (Joie Alexander).
Please have the aggrieved party give me a call and I’ll gather more details to present.
MSD (and most other boating issues ) are CIVIL infractions and should not be subject to heavy handed actions by government officials including sherriff/city police officers.
Attached are the FL statutes and penalties for msd infractions.
It is simple… msd fines are 50 or 250 and NOT criminal (kinda like improper spacinf of reg numbers on a vessel)
Well first of all the Police were correct in siting this boat for an unsecured msd valve. The law states that you must have the handle either disconnected or tie wrapped so it can not be operated while the boat is within 3 miles of the shoreline. That being said, I do not agree with the drawn weapon while boarding the vessel thing. They should have asked for the Captain of the vessel before boarding in my opinion, and being a licensed Captain, I would have said something to them for boarding without permission from the Captain. The Captain is always in charge of said vessel, they should have known better. Sometimes over zealous Local Water Police can give everyone else a bad name, and they do what they want. I would complain to the Police Department directly about the situation or call the USCG and let them know about it. As for the valve, that one is on you, you should have known better! Simply turning it off is not good enough!
Capt. Patrick Leddy
Check your archives. I wrote to you about two years ago regarding a similar incident with the Volusia County Sheriff’s Dept. They boarded our vessel under similar circumstances, did not give us the courtesy of a request to board. Just jumped on our boat and rudely demanded access to our heads. We did not receive a citation as we were in compliance with all laws. The problem was with the threatening manner in which they boarded our vessel. I was below cooking breakfast when they jumped aboard and could easily have mistaken the boarding as a hostile act and taken defensive action if crew hadn’t announced they were uniformed law enforcement officers. What the heck is going on?
Name Withheld by Request
Does the US Coast Guard have any authority concerning matters like this as far as reviewing the incident with the law officer that done the inspection of this vessel?
SAME EXPERIENCE LESS WEAPON AND FINE.THERE WERE 4 VOLUSIA VESSELS,ONE BOARDED US WITH 3 OFFICERS AND ONE STATE POLICE TRAINING OTHERS.HE DID ALL THE TALKING. HE EMPHASIZED VALVE MUST BE LOCKED EVEN IF TURNED PROPERLY TO HOLDING TANK.”INTENT” TO USE! MINE WAS TYWRAPED.
ALL TURNED OUT OK AFTER DYE TEST.
IT WAS VERY INTIMIDATING AND IT FELT LIKE BULLING.WE WERE GIVEN A HEADS UP VIA EMAIL EARLIER TO BE CAREFUL AND BE LEGAL WHICH WE DO ANYWAY.
Well, I’ve been on both sides of this issue. As a one time law enforcement officer, and then as a liveaboard cruiser. First of all, if Capt. “X” had not satisfactorily locked his “Y” valves, he’s at the mercy of the enforcement officer on the scene, and subject to the $250 penalty.
But, there is no excuse for the officer to have drawn his .45 while enforcing this particular infraction. And no law enforcement agency can tolerate this kind of wreckless, not to mention antagonistic approach to law enforcement.
And, if any such agency is already aware of this kind of “heavy handed” behavior, it speaks poorly for their public relations attitude. It smacks of “Dirty Harry” policy, from the top down. You did right to have Capt. “X” spell out the facts, and have attention drawn to the entire incident.
Sorry about the $250, Capt. “X”!!! Maybe you should consider yourself lucky the die didn’t appear outside the boat…..the penalty might have been MUCH worse!
I come from a law enforcement family. My father is a retired Sheriff’s Deputy. Unless this cruiser takes the citation to court, the facts of the case will never become a matter of record. If there is a “heavy-handed” fellow involved, it will only be a matter of time before someone is the victim of an accidental discharge. My father had a partner like that and my dad left the force rather than be there when his partner shot someone, quite possibly my Dad. I repeat, unless this is taken to court, the procedural violations will never become a actionable matter of legal record. This account will be treated as urban legend is made admissible at all.
Can you provide me with the e-mail address for the sheriff so I can ask if if I should expect the same treatment when I transit the county in January.
Only in Fl. waters could I beleive this could/would happen! You wonder just where some of these “law enforcement” people come from. I have been cruising between South Carolina and the Key’s for about seven years now and havent had any problems anywhere until I get in Fl.I’ve been stopped a number of times while in my dinghy to see if I have a whisle on board.I must say that(so far) I have never had a gun pointed at me. That officer,and I use the term losely, should be fired on the spot,if for no other reason,just being stupid!!
You should write a letter to the County Sheriff and the County Chairman explaining what was done to you. Copy those letters to local newspaper as a letter to the editor. Thanks for sharing.
This is indeed disturbing and we have just sent a request to Sheriff Ben Johnson of the Volusia County Sheriff’s office asking for a response. If anyone else would care to email him he can be reached at, BJohnson@vcso.us . We will post his reply.
Thank you for posting this warning.
Nothing excuses the storm-trooper tactics of these goons who throw their weight around while hiding behind their badges. I hope this unfortunate boater files a complaint (the name of the officer in question is probably on the citation) and appeals his fine. Perhaps there’s a legal foundation that will help him cover court costs. At the very least, I hope he registers his complaint with the local news media.
However, if these waters in Volusia County have been legally designated as a No Discharge Zone, then merely closing the overboard discharge valve does not constitute compliance with the law. As I understand it (and I’m not a lawyer), the discharge valve must be secured, either with a padlock, by removing the seacock handle or by installing a “permanent wire tie.”
Now that boaters are forewarned, please be sure to “secure” your overboard discharge before entering no-discharge zones.
As I understand the Patriot Act officers can pretty much do as they wish with recreational vessels (sure not the way our forefathers lived).
That said our discharge valves are always locked inside of 3 miles. No reason not to and it ends MSD discussions; though the officer in question likely would have found some other infraction to justify his visit.
Pretty typical of the North Florida Sheriffs on the water. While this sounds like a harrowing experience to have in our own country, you’re lucky that they didn’t damage anything else. Many are assigned to the water with no real experience or training in vessel operation. One of the worst waking events I ever saw was done by a Sheriff’s boat from a county just north of your incident.
Abuse of power and trumped up charges seem to be the order of the day. I hope you get a more intelligent action in court when you plead the case.
Best of luck.
JM. [a licensed captain, and former SeaTow franchise owner.]
Florida Laws: FL Statutes – Title XXIV Vessels Section 327.01 Short title.
4)(a) Raw sewage shall not be discharged from any vessel, including houseboats, or any floating structure in Florida waters. The operator of any vessel which is plumbed so that a toilet may be flushed directly into the water or so that a holding tank may be emptied into the water shall, while the vessel is on the waters of the state, set the valve or other mechanism directing the sewage so as to prevent direct discharge and lock or otherwise secure the valve so as to prevent resetting.
(5) Every vessel owner, operator, and occupant shall comply with United States Coast Guard regulations pertaining to marine sanitation devices and with United States Environmental Protection Agency regulations pertaining to areas in which the discharge of sewage, treated or untreated, is prohibited.
Both FL laws and USCG requirements just say to be secured in suh a way to prevent resetting (opening) – they do not have to be locked unless the vessel is in for example the FL Keys according to FL own Laws as I read them. And the USCG regs say that the handle(s) being removed meets their requirements.
Suggest you hire a lawyer and file suit under violation of human rights, if what you say is true, you just might be able to buy a cruise ship with the award.
Also, let local press know, this stuff cannot go unpunished.
I now have another place where I will keep my money in my pocket and will pass through when I get there.
This sort of crap is dangerous and totally uncalled for. It is so outrageous that if given wide publicity will be stopped by the local authority out of sheer embarassment.
A question, what is considered legal valve securing, Ty wrap, padlock, wire wrap?
We had a situation the same but with-out the drawn guns.
Last year coming north. No permission to board my wife was in pajamas.. We had a padlock over the breaker to the forward head so it could not be used (Elec only). He said the law says the thru hull had to be locked. $250 fine and when he left under full power, waked a small fishing boat to almost swamping conditions
Sounds like an OVERZEALOUS (Jerk), COWBOY Deputy that should be FIRED before someone really gets hurt. I’m no lawyer either, BUT under the “Stand Your Ground” FL law, unless the deputy requested to come aboard, showed some positive identification – HE COULD HAVE LEGALLY BEEN SHOT! Anyone can buy a uniform, so that means nothing!
We were boarded last year but were not threatened with a gun! The officer was pompous but courteous. We were warned by a fellow cruiser that what they really want to see is a wire securing the handle of the Y-valve with a keyed padlock on it. Once the officer saw the lock, he was very pleased and left us alone. We recommend that everyone cruising through Florida make sure they have a padlock (not a wire tie) on their Y-valve.
Harriet & Skip S/V Moondance
Do we know where the boarding officers came from? Volusia Sheriffs, Florida WildLife, Edgewater Marine Police, CG ?? I would like to send a letter to ben Johnson, Vplusia Sheriff or call him if they were the baording officers.
I was closing in on that vessel yesterday morning guess as the boarding came to an end and LEOs hopes back on the sheriff boat, made a uturn and headed back north. They didn’t board me or the other vessels behind. I didn’t know where the boarding started but it ended in the northern part of mosquito lagoon around mm860
I wonder why sheriff deputies would do an MSD boarding weapon drawn
Get a GOOD defense attorney – one with good teeth!! and bust these guys’ butts – totally uncalled for, if presented correctly by the captain
I just furthered your notice to the mayor and city commissioners here in New Smyrna Beach so they could be aware of what their fellow governmental officials are doing. An incident like this, even though not happening ‘officially’ in our city, can bring harm on our community. Hopefully they will be able to seek out their counterparts in government and address this issue.
We were boarded on the way down by the Coast Guard for a safety check though the head was the focus. The very calm officer said that few people realize (including self ) that secured means with a lock or plastic tie wrap that cannot easily be undone. Shuting off the valve alone does not satisfy the intent of the law. By the way, they had hands on weapons but none were drawn and they allowed us to tie up in Beaufort, NC before they came aboard.
I was boarded while underway just south of New Symrna Beach having just come in from Ponce Inlet two years ago and given similar treatment although no guns were drawn.
The threatened use of deadly physical force for a toilet check is way out of line and the state attorney general should see that the officer is brought up on charges and any such boarding should be prohibited.
The officer should be personally responsible for such a violent threat and charged accordingly.
It has probably been about three years now that I have heard of this same exact situation, boarding while underway without permission, guns drawn, dye in the head & flushed to see if there is any discharge & very unprofessional officers. I had passed a sailboat (I have a power boat) that had just been inspected about a mile in front of me going the same direction. The family on the sailboat, with a couple of teenagers were scared stiff. In fact they were so scared that they furled their sails & dropped anchor because they were too distraut to continue. That was about three years ago. At the marina where I keep my boat, south of the area indicated, I have heard of the same thing happening to boats that have passed through the same area. I have my handle for my holding tank padlocked in the down position so that there will be no discharge. It would be interesting to see what Boat U.S. has to say because somewhere, I think, (I’m not sure where) I read that within the 3 mile limit there was an ordinance making it mandatory to have the discharge handle locked, but I could be wrong.
CONDUCT SUCH AS HAS BEEN DESCRIBED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT, ANYWHERE IS OUTRAGEOUS. THIS IS A GROSS VIOLATION OF CIVIL RIGHTS IN THIS COUNTRY. HOPEFULLY THE SKIPPER OBTAINED NAME, RANK AND BADGE NUMBERS OF OFFICERS INVOLVED. THIS ONE SHOULD GO ALL THE WAY TO THE GOVERNOR’S OFFICE OF THE STATE OF FLRIDA. NOTHING SPEAKS LOUDER TO THE CURRENT POLICIES OF INDISCRIMINATE ENFORCEMENT OF LAWS IN THE US THAN THIS EVENT.
If Volusia County is aware of this heavy handed officer, shame on them for keeping him. This is outrageous in the US! I hope this is pursued by the injured party.
Our craft was boarded by the Volusia County Sheriff’s department during daylight hours south of Datona late October 2008. Proper hailing and pre-boarding protocol was observed by the officers. While one officer boarded the other was doing a superb job of standing off and not touching our vessel with his vessel.
The boarding officer asked if we had a marine head and I replied we had a 5 gallon porta-poti. He asked if he could go below and see it. Since we were motoring at idle and I was at the tiller and our boat is only25′ I indicated the location of the enclosed head and invited him to take a look. He went below, opened the head door and did a mild double take. He said, as if talking to the porta-poti, ‘Well, that was easy’ He closed the head door and returned to the cockpit. He thanked me and we exchanged ‘Have a good day’. He then stepped onto the police launch, which never made contact with our boat, and they motored off to the next boat behind us and boarded them. We had time to observe them make one more boarding before the bridge opened and we proceeded on.
Louis F. Spagna
I hold a coast guard masters license, but I am not aware of any legal requirement for securing your “Y” valves or your thru hulls. It appears to me that there was no violation in the situation described.
I posted this in the SSCA ‘destinations’ forum.
This has been going on for a few YEARS. The ‘rumors are becoming more commonplace’ from more than a few cruisers passing through Volusia County, Florida on the AICW. Ive been intimidated/boarded in Volusia Country several times; BUT…..
I had the almost the SAME thing happen to me in Nov 08 on the AICW a few miles north of New Smyrna.
I first saw a center console boat coming directly *head-on* at extreme high speed in a NO WAKE/MANATEE zone. They came close aboard to apparently/OBVIOUSLY to read my homeport, etc. while covering me with some spray, the “VOLUSIA COUNTY SHERIFF” boat then did an immediate 180 & then came alongside, and loudly demanded to know if I had guns or weapons aboard and to keep my hands where they could see them at all times, that I should proceed at dead slow, one deputy ***SLIPPED HIS SERVICE WEAPON FROM HIS HOLSTER*** in ***plain view***, BRIEFLY BRANDISHED IT, then replaced it and stated he was coming aboard. Their boat then BUMPED hard into mine due to crossing the wake from their boat when they first passed me. He climbed up and without any further word, almost pushing my wife out of the way, proceeded down the companion way to the head (wife following him). He then dumped dye into the head, and continued to flush – UNTIL THE HOLDING TANK CONTENTS BEGAN TO COME OUT THE VENT. He then came back up and loudly and arrogantly lectured us that not having a locked overboard valve in VOLUSIA COUNTY would result in a $250(?) fine (all the while ‘playing’ with his holstered weapon) …. and with no further word or explanation the Sheriffs boat which was following at my stern, again harshly bumped into my side and the ***OFFICIAL VOLUSIA COUNTY deputy sheriff ****THUG****crossed back to the Sheriff’s boat and then left. Im not afraid of guns, etc. as Im a ardent hunter/shooter; but, I have to tell you that this SOB made my sphincter tingle with his *armed intimidation*.
My advice: Stay out of Volusia Country, Fl (AICW) if you dont want extreme HARASSMENT & (ARMED) INTIMIDATION.
With 38 years of a former life in law enforcement, this is a serious situation IF related fully and accurately. Many cases are distorted or lack all the facts. I suspect that the officers had some sort of intelligence matching the description of this boat coming in from off shore and boarded with that thought. The sanitary inspection is simply a “prostitute in a nuns habit” to justify their heavy handed actions and the fine an attempt to disarm any complaint e.g. just a disgruntled offender. There certainly is a law enforcement brotherhood/fraternalism of self protection because of the nature of the work. However, the “he said she said” scenario that favors the officer’s version breaks down quickly when multiple complaints are lodged from unrelated sources. It is very important to lodge a complaint
with the hierarchy of authority within the jurisdiction of occurrence. It doesn’t hurt to CC the US Attorney General referencing a potential denial of civil rights so that a record can be federally made of the incident should a pattern develop with in the local jurisdiction. The Feds have the authority to investigate/take action against local authorities for a pattern of civil rights abuses and have done so in the past. Individual officer heavy handedness is generally non discriminatory and should be dealt with before tragic result e.g. unintentional discharge of a weapon. Multiple sources always carry much greater weight.
We were boarded 2 yrs ago on the same stretch of the ICW and had a very similar experience. Fortunately our Y-valves were in the proper position. 2 officers boarded us and 2 stayed in the Sheriff’s patrol boat. Dye was inserted as described and the toilet pumped. We did not have any wire ties or locks on the valves… after some discussion they gave us a warning. It scared the hell out of us when they pulled up along side and demanded that no one leave their eye sight. It was just my wife and me and we have made the trip about a half dozen times. No where else have we been treated like that.
This is absurd. The Volusia County town fathers should be made aware of this Nazi type of action. “Heavy handed” is a polite way of covering up an officer with a serious problem. Internal affairs should be alerted. Law enforcers are paid by us, the public, to serve and protect. Not threaten and attack.
The story sounds terrible. However, I had a long telephone conversation with an officer of the Sheriff’s Department today. As always, there are two sides to the story. I don’t want to get in the middle, but I am satisfied there is not a huge problem for cruisers transiting Volusia County. Just make sure there is some restraint, nominal or otherwise, on the through hull fitting.
Was it a documented vessel or just state registered? If it was documented, does that sherif even have the authority to board? If it is a liveaboard home, they need a search warrant. They cannot just jump aboard?
The same kind of thing has been happening to people all over the place. Police have become more and more belligerent. If people think that it’s only a few cops that are at fault, just wait until any of them, even the worst of the bunch, is prosecuted or brought before an investigatory board and the rest of the force, nearly 100% will stand behind and support them.
But the camera is the new gun, and exposure of the actions of these roaches will cause them much grief. The cameras that watch us all the time also watch them, and record their actions against innocent citizens. It so frightens them that in Maryland they passed a law that makes it illegal to take video of any police officer. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done surreptitiously and put on utube or some other place. Exposure of their criminal acts will cause more people to withdraw support, and a critical tipping point will arrive at some time where they will lose all respect.
I read in the comments section “Certainly, there is no debate about adhering to laws, but facing off citizens with weapons is frightening and only instilling of fear, which is not the proper role of government.” I know this may sound crazy to a lot of people but the only way the government can force compliance is to instill fear. This is done by all kinds of means, humiliation, threats of incarceration, torture by taser, and ultimately by fear of death by gunfire. As far as adhering to laws, there are 70,000 pages added to the federal register every year, three columns of legalese on every page. About 1500 pages a week we are supposed to read and know. And this is just federal, there is also state and local. People simply cannot be expected to keep up with so much “stuff” even if they wanted to. It has been said that almost all of us commit three felonies every day in one way or another. What is the government doing except instilling fear in the populace.
Exposure and the internet are the answer to this. At a certain point it will become apparent that our government is out of control and does not represent us, and never did, and is illegitimate. Then we will have a chance of regaining our liberty, if we can do away with our addiction to coercive government.
Thank you for posting the “rest of the story”. When all is said and done, I trust you will publish an “alert” clarification in the next newsletter with the same enthusiasm shown in the last.
Is this a no discharge zone? If not then what are the locals going to do if someone with a Lectra San unit comes along? It does not seem that these guys are in any mood to listen re different types of MSD,s
Since law enforcement personnel can’t stop your car or enter your home without some sort of provocation, I’m wondering why the spirit of those laws don’t translate to the waterway and our floating homes?
It seems that people who in the normal course of living have a healthy respect others property and human rights, would extend more courtesy to passing yachtsmen.
I, too, was boarded by the Volusia County Sheriff’s deputies only a couple of hours after the boarding described in the original post, presumably by the same three officers. Their craft was plainly identified and handled in a professional manner. The officers were courteous, fast in their inspection, and did not even delay our passage through the drawbridge.
Particularly considering that a Fish and Wildlife Officer was shot earlier this year on this stretch of coast while persuing his lawful duties, Mr. Davidson’s description of the events and comments are perfectly justified as, in my opinion, were the officer’s actions.
There is no reason to avoid this beautiful area of the coast; and those who obey the law have nothing to fear from law enforcement in this or any other Florida county.
ANDREW GYGI M.D
There is only one way to fight these vigilantes. . . where it counts . . . personally I am keeping a journal on all such reported incidents and will make it a point not to spend one penny in there area. I am very fortunate so far and this has not happened to me personally, but I will support my fellow boaters and not support those communities who allow this to happen.
To treat law abiding citizens / visitors as criminals is outrageous and the problem starts and stops at the top. These officers are doing what their bosses want them to do.
We need to Sue these rat . . ., they are NOT within their rights!
I will chip in for sure.
This factual story is not about a toliet, but about bullying. Which I feel happens too often in Fla waters. Something needs to be done!
A few years ago we were in Ft Lauderdale and were treated rudely and threaten to have our vessel seized. All this because the Police thought we had past the 48 hr anchoring in Lake Silver. We informed the officer that we were within our legal rights as a boat in “navigation” to anchor in Lake Silver for the posted time, as we were crossing to the Bahamas. The officer took our phone number down, and later that day, Sgt. Pallen called us to inform us that he would be there at 6pm to seize our boat and arrest my husband. My husband replied “under what authority? Sgt. Pallen screamed that it was under his authority to tow our boat. Needless to say he never showed up, however just the terrible treatment of this officer keeps me away from Ft Lauderdale. Bully treatment has to stop in all forms. They are watching us for any hint of violations, who is watching them when they violate our civil rights? I am sure MSD issues would have been raised as a reason for further harassment had the confirmation proceeded.
BTW: Sgt. Pallen has been investigated several times.
If you EVER, on a boat, in your car, in your home, or on the street, blatantly refuse to follow the direct order of a law enforcement officer, you have asked for whatever treatment you receive! Police officers are NOT required to stand by unarmed when a civilian acts in a peculiar manner. Refusing to remain on deck, as requested, and running into the cabin is clearly a provocative act and no one should be upset that a gun was drawn. I suppose there is the possibility that the 3 offciers are lying about what occured but that seems pretty farfetched.
Sadly, this is just another example of the Cartman complex that far too many law enforcement officers have acquired in the last few years.
As a 40+ year tug boat captain, I’ve been boarded many times over the years. Until the last few years, the boarding officers were always respectful and courteous. In recent years, the whole attitude of law enforcement has changed to heavy handed, “YOU WILL RESPECT MY AUTHORITY.”, just look at me wrong and I will arrest or shoot you.
I’ve seen the attitude develop, that the citizen is the enemy, throughout law enforcement. They fear little or no oversight for abuses and know the worst repercussion will only be a few paid days off.
Having read this, I am not surprised and would never believe any statements by the Sheriffs Department.
Thank you for publishing the statement by the representative of the Sheriff’s Office. Now there is a new “light” shed on the incident. If the crew of the subject boat truly defied the order to “Stay in sight” (a reasonable request) and acted as described, the officer definitely had enough reason to suspect some sort of foul play and possibly a threat to himself or his fellow officers. For now, I’m back to siding with the law enforcement officer, and awaiting further elucidation from Capt. “X”. Again, thank you for attempting to present both sides of this very emotional issue.
As I read the Statutes:
Valves must be secured while in FL waters (MSD Type III)
Valves must be secured in NO-Discharge Zones (MSD Type I & II).
Documentation vs. state reg is irellevant.
To the Captain (Aubrey Vaughan) that stated there are no MSD laws, re-read CFR’s and Federal Clean Water Act as well as FL and most other State Statutes; they all mimic the Federal act. Fines go to the State for clean water actions like pump-out grants, etc. and not to the locals.
Owner was not in compliance. That is not the issue… the heavy-ahded actions of many police officers is the real issue (DON’T TASE ME BRO comes to mind).
There is no restriction on boarding any vessel transiting any state’s or federal waters. I was boarded by USCG midway between West End Bahamas and Palm Beach. Clearly international waters.
Last year at this time sailboat friends (seniors) were boarded (did not ask permission) at New Smyrna Beach. No guns drawn, but officers were rude and nasty to them. Violation of closed, but not locked valve (die did not go into water). They sent in their $250; town returned check at told them to send another check for $88. They don’t know why the lesser amount. It left them with bad taste of law enforcement officers.
Looks like being boarded is much like being stopped by an officer on the road. The best you can do is remain calm and respectful.
My nephew is a county police officer and he says that the most frightening thing for him to do is approaching a car he has pulled over. He never knows what he’s going to find when he walks up to the window of that car.
However, this is no excuse for unprofessional or threatening behavior on the part of an officer of the law.
Unfortunately, the best advice, in addition to being in compliance with regulations, seems: be very, very cool if boarding takes place.
I have been stopped fpr inspection by the USCG twice. Both times they were armed and had a fairly large weapon on their bow. In BOTH cases the USCG ASKED PERMISSION to board. They DID NOT draw their weapons. The Sheriff obviously needs to take a course on MARITIME LAW!!!! And the local Press/TV should investigate this deputies record – I would bet this is not his first complaint! A police officer in Cape Coral was just dismissed for similar “strong arm’ tactics. I know they don’t like to hear it, and they’ve heard it before BUT THEY WORK FOR US!!!!
All… this is what we look for doing “Courtesy Checks.” The following is what the USCG tells us to look for, so I believe this is good guidance. This was written by a fellow boater in response to the same question.
Quote…….Here is what a boating course in Florida says about holding tank compliance:
When operating a vessel on a body of water where the discharge of treated or untreated sewage is prohibited, such as No Discharge Zones, the operator must secure the device in a manner that prevents any discharge. Some acceptable methods are:
Padlocking overboard discharge valves in the closed position, using a non-releasable wire tie to hold overboard discharge valves in the closed position.
Closing overboard discharge valves and removing the handle.
Locking the door, with padlock or key lock, to the space enclosing the toilets (for Type I, Type II only)……Unquote
Aboard our boat, I personally use plastic tie wraps through holes drilled in the handles so that the handle is locked in the proper no discharge position. BTW… in some places these “rules” are construed to mean that any “Y” valve in the line must be locked to only permit flow to the holding tank, or to the deck pumpout. Some systems have two “Y” valves between the head and the overboard.
As an aside…. Florida regulations permit “any” Florida official to board your boat at any time they chose in order to check and ensure that you are not pumping over the side. It doesn’t technically even need to be law enforcement. It even gets better… Florida authorities can stop you offshore, and even beyond state waters, IF they think you’re headed to a Florida port or coastal waters. How about that! This is an old discussion in Florida that has been discussed now for years – since they passed these regs. It is doubtful that the regs would completely stand-up to a serious court challenge, but to the best of my knowledge there has never been a serious challenge. However, in many, many states the Fish & Game, Wildlife, Sheriff, and Municipal Police have the authority to board your boat and check for safety gear and holding tanks when they want to; in port, at anchor and underway. No “probable cause” is needed. In short, they often “share” jurisdiction with the USCG and if you’re transiting strictly state controlled waters they have sole jurisdiction. So, you want to play nice with local law. The drawn and pointed weapons is another deal entirely. That I do not understand, but perhaps they believed that it would take deadly force to keep the skipper from trying to scurry about and align/lock the system properly. Coming below with drawn and pointed weapons means to me that they perceived a real and present criminal/violent threat to them. I wasn’t there and don’t know the exact circumstances that prompted such action. USCG usually asks to see the crew before they come aboard so they are observed by an alert and ready deck crew. I was once boarded 90 miles off California and the cutter did have it’s machine gun manned and ready, but the crew that came over did not have weapons drawn even at 0100 in the morning. As with a traffic stop, when the Man says to do something; you do. Have a great day. Don R, m/v Andante, moored Daytona Beach, Fl, Volusia County.
Dear Sherrif Johnson,
Think about it – you are babysitting a sewage problem – not a criminal activity that warrants a drawn gun and an unannounced boarding!!!
Why not simply announce your intention to board and at the same time announce your intention to inspect the MSD system? Where can a sail boat or trawler go? What if the skipper “locks” or “secures” the MSD valve upon notice of intention to board? If so, as a result of your announcement, you have sent your message. Or, you can give a citation if he has no lock!!
If you are looking for drugs, announce your intentions to board and announce that you are looking for drugs!! You will see these boat owners and crew, on sail boats and trawlers, act in a very responsible manner – because they know what to expect!! Are you using the MSD issue to do drug inspections? Separate the two inspections – drug and MSD – with proper policy and procedures.
Just because you have the right to board without cause, does not mean you should board someones boat without announcing your intentions!! Remember, you are demanding entry into their private home – not asking – as you should. Should you get a search warrant for every boat boarding? Think about it, your actions could cause your agency to be headed in that direction.
Help solve the problem and do not simply use all your force to overzealously enforce the sewage law!!
Reprimand the officer if he has a pattern of this behavior, apologize to the boating community, and establish a proper boarding policy in writing that everyone can see.
Again, these are private boats and a private home while the owner and crew are on the boat. Help solve the sewage problem and not exacerbate the issue.
Louis M. Wade, Jr.
I know that the USCG and US Customs have the unfettered right to board and search a vessel under any circumstances and this authority dates back to the Prohibition Era. I am unaware that boats are different from automobiles and, therefore, I would think that permission or probable cause is necessary to board and search. But then, I was directed to this ambiguous Florida Q&A online:
“Are marine sanitation devices subject to inspection?
Yes. When the owner or operator is aboard, an officer may board a vessel with consent or if there is probable cause or knowledge to believe that a violation has occurred or is occurring. An officer may also board a vessel if the operator refuses or is unable to display the safety or marine sanitation equipment.”
Being a non-lawyer, I am going to assume that like some North Carolina laws, this was written poorly to create a gray area where officers can do what they want. I do think that it violates our 4th Amendment rights. Even drug runners get their rights respected better.
If a pistol was aimed at the captain’s chest, it’s stupid. The “threat” was supposed to be in a cabin where it is alleged that a crew member was opening and closing drawers. That may be sufficient cause to draw a sidearm and keep it at low or high ready, but you do not point it at an unarmed, passive person’s chest.
Given the prior postings on this subject, I found the following citation for the Florida statutes, Title XXIV Section 327 shown below rather interesting.
327.56 Safety and marine sanitation equipment inspections; qualified.
(1) No officer shall board any vessel to make a safety or marine sanitation equipment inspection if the owner or operator is not aboard. When the owner or operator is aboard, an officer may board a vessel with consent or when the officer has probable cause or knowledge to believe that a violation of a provision of this chapter has occurred or is occurring. An officer may board a vessel when the operator refuses or is unable to display the safety or marine sanitation equipment required by law, if requested to do so by a law enforcement officer, or when the safety or marine sanitation equipment to be
inspected is permanently installed and is not visible for inspection unless the officer boards the vessel.
Personal experience after many years of sailing… USCG and harbor police have always hailed on VHF16 switched to a working channel and exchanged intentions. If they are boarding I tell them they will be met at the (pilot) ladder by an officer who will escort the boarding party leader to the captain’s office to state their official business. Without the Master’s authorization they will need to contact the President of the United States since this is a U.S. Flag vessel and cannot be boarded by foreigners.
You can guess how well that goes over… the point being I run this ship – if you want to come aboard then its at my pleasure not yours. If you don’t like it we can go to a U.S. Port and appear before a judge and work things out.
Should you draw your weapon or release the safety clasp I will take that as a willful act of aggression and respond accordingly. You have now been warned. At your peril.
I have twice cruised to Florida, from Lake Ontario. Fortunately, I have never encountered this situation.
What boaters need to know:
1 – Is the requirement to “secure” a through valve a county or Florida state requirement.
2 – The meaning of “secure” must be defined.
3 – How will the county/state communicate this requirement to boaters? Will they post signs at the border on the AICW and all inlets from the ocean, so that the requirement is made known?
4 – How anxious are Florida State and Volusia County, to have transient boaters visit? This type of action will keep out of state boaters from coming and spending their money there.
IT seems to me that the boat owner could better train and instruct his crew in keeping a better lookout. After 25 years of boating harbor/marine police do not come unannounced and jump aboard boats that are being operated in a proper way… what in the heck was the person(s) in charge of the watch doing? Undoubtedly not paying attention with eyes, ears or all available means (radar etc).
I’d be getting a new crew and posting standing orders – strict? Ya-sure ya-betcha – the world is changing and I take responsibility for my own boat as owner and operator – no one else.
Next I’d be re-thinking my actions regarding the existing laws – either follow them else rally the troops to get them changed – locked valves are easy enough – just do it.
NOT ALL OF THE FACTS ARE PRESENT
Some facts appears to be fabricated… until its clear who did what and why I’m on the side of the vessel owner who undoubtedly is a ‘good joe’ just moving his boat.
I think the police did NOT properly identify themself, ask how many aboard, ask all persons to come ondeck for a night boarding. Had they done that on a VHF channel for the world to hear they might have been received aboard in a more business like manner.
To be prepared is to be forewarned.
Keep the details coming…
Please read the statutes as presented in many times in this thread…
it is a federal law, also enacted by the individual states (a bifurcated enforcement).
Secure is clearly defined (so as to prevent resetting to the open position)…
It is communicated through all boating safety courses and well documented.
Few in this thread expressed a concern with the requirement… it the alleged heavy handedness of the officers.
Volusia is not on the High seas or a foreign port… the President has given all local officials the right to baord vessels upon their waters.
Remember, the captain was down below cooking bacon, he was not on deck. The cop came down to him, gun drawn!
Now am I going to beleive the captain…or the cops who more are and more getting out of control!
“an officer may board a vessel with consent or when the officer has probable cause or knowledge to believe that a violation of a provision of this chapter has occurred or is occurring.” Where, exactly, was this probable cause, the mere existance of the boat on the water? Unless they smell discharge or see discharge, there is no “Probable cause” They are just fishing…..with guns. I wonder how pleased they would be if someone showed up to their homes to inspect for violations of toilet size….over 1.6 gallons per flush…gotta fine ya, oh, and look, I gotta gun! Probable cause, uh, well, you have a bathroom don’t ya?
Can anything I say be used against me in any way today?
Do I have a right not to speak with you?
No warrant No search No probable cause….Have a nice day.
The sheriff’s office has apparently quickly absolved the officers of any wrongdoing (as per their press release.) Did they interview the complaining party or just their officers? By the way, I can’t remember a police department ever admitting they did anything wrong.
Wow. What excitment!!! I sent the first posting to the manager of Volusia County. His response was basically stating I needed to check the response from the county. There are many good points that have been made. One, the several reports of abusive conduct by police is disconcerting. Two, if the sheriff’s report is correct that the owner dove below after being made aware of police presence he is lucky he was not shot. What is missing are “teachable moments”. Given the number of incidents of alledged heavy handedness, maybe all of the officers/county officials should read these posts so they can gain different perpsective on these inspections. After I got a speeding ticket a few months back I had a most delightful discussion with the officer and we both left laughing. Politeness goes a very very long way. We can all be allies and work for clean water. And, boaters note, I have no desire to boat through someone elses wastes so LOCK THE STUPID VALVE ( I am sure my ford lehman does not cool well with feces clogging the strainer). nough said.
If we all quit spending money in their county (Volushia) change will come very quickly, and hopefully this “rogue cop” will be looking for a job. I transit this area four or five times a year and this is not the first story of this kind I’ve heard. These people have a problem and refuse to fix it. So, I just wave as I go by and give NO THOUGHT to stopping.
I find it interesting that the Captain of the vessel who was given a $250 citation and started this firestorm of controversy, now wants it all to end stating “I’ve made my case, and the Sheriff’s office has made theirs”. This seems to me like nothing more than a frustrated boater who is upset that they were caught and issued a $250 ticket.
As a resident of Volusia County and an active boater for over 30 years I appreciate the way our local law enforcement maintain our waterways for both safety and environmental reasons. With such a heavy influx of boaters coming south for the winter, I feel this type of procedure is very necessary in our area to maintain the cleanliness of our very fragile ecosystem. Several times I have been stopped and my boat checked for proper equipment and to make sure any fish we have caught are within the legal limits of the local regulations.
I have never had a bad incident with these officers, but then again, I have always complied with their requests and treated them with the respect I believe they deserve.
I guess maybe I was just raised differently. I was taught to respect law enforcement and to obey the law. Maybe if I had just ignored an order, I would also have gotten a ticket….funny thing…I fortunately, never have.
People, these officers are just doing their job, and trying to keep our area safe and our environment clean…. I hope you will all continue to visit and enjoy our area as you pass thru… but please understand, this is our home and we need to keep it as pristine as possible. Let’s all work together to be part of the solution, not part of the problem…
After reading many of the responses and the sheriff’s office response, I am convinced that the crux of the matter is that they did not ask for permission to board. For the police to come up alongside and ask permission is, as noted in many emails, required by Florida law. Asking for permission serves a great purpose. It opens a dialogue of calmness (hopefully) between the police and the crew – as long as the police treat law-abiding citizens with the respect they deserve. First of all the police can only come aboard (unless there is probable cause for other activities) to inspect those required items that they cannot inspect from their boat and not boarding the other boat. All papers and life jackets, etc, can be brought up top, but one must go on board to inspect the toilet. The officer must ask to come on board and for what reason and it is important that the captain grant permission for the specific purpose, although the captain does not have to grant permission. But even if he does not give permission, the police can still board ONLY for the purpose they need. I recommend that the captain answer, if he does not want the officer to come onboard, “I prefer you don’t.” It would also be good to say, if the officer does insist on coming onboard for the specific reason, the captain would be wise to enumerate and reinforce that reason.
Only the captain should be allowed to answer that question and if the police come alongside the boat and ask for permission to board, they should first ask for the captain, and if he is not on deck, it is best, of course, if the crew answer that the captain has to answer that and call for the captain. If the police have any sense, they will allow the crew to get the captain if he is not on deck.
It appears to me, in this case, that the police did not ask for permission, but just started to board. Even the sheriff’s representative stated that they don’t need permission, but he did not state, even though the captain said they did not ask for permission, that they asked. If he knew the law, he would have stated right off, whether it was true or not, that they asked for permission. But he didn’t. More than likely, the police did not ask and I am sure they – and the sheriff’s representative – did not know their legal limitations and requirements. Without knowing that, they obviously failed in their moral and common sense requirements of treating the boaters with respect. After all, they weren’t entering a crack house.
Once they boarded the boat without asking, and thereby breaking the law, drawing their guns becomes a separate and inconsequential issue. Even it was stupid.
Let’s see if the sheriff’s office admits their guilt. That would be rare indeed. Of course, many police officer’s out there – but not all, for sure – believe they have the right and power to do anything they want, whenever they want, because they have a badge.
If (IF) the vessel was “in transit” on the ICW, than the “local” sheriff’s Office HAS NO RIGHT Under Law to board the vessel, without Probable Cause or a warrant.
They may, perform an interdiction whereby an FWC or a Federal Agency is called to the vessel, to board and inspect.
Otherwise they are in violation of State and Federal Law.
Been there done that…
Listen up Local Law Enforcement. I fully understand you have a job to do…BUT if you decide to board a vessel under the color of Law, then you best be right.
If (IF) it had been me, and I was “in transit” on the ICW, any attemt to board my vessel by someone (other than FWC or a Federal Agency) will be me as with any other Trespasser or Pirate! No one will like the out come as I WILL Protect my vessel and crew.
To me there are still a lot of holes in both sides of the story. I agree that Florida Marine Police and Sheriffs Patrols have more than their share of “Cowboys”, but that does not reduce the common sense requirements on us to be aware of what is going on near our boat and the crew keeping the captain informed. Also when approached by a police/law enforcement vessel one should be as cooperative as possible and not give them any cause for alarm. As to his drawing a gun, I don’t blame him, assuming the Sheriff’s story is correct. Don’t forget that many cruising boats are more heavily armed than the police and he is anxious about his personal safety.
While most of us are law abiding and try to stay abreast of the legal requirement for our boats, it is very clear that there are a lot of people out there that either do not know what is required, or care. Just think about the nuber of times that you have been near someone who shows no comprehension of the Rules of the Road or common sense. Also many of the comments above show total ignorance of the Federal requirements to secure the head discharge.
Bottom line; Even if he is a heavy handed SOB it is in our own interest to make it as painless as possible. Complain later but don’t add to the situation as it occurs.
Sounds like plenty of ambiguity to go around. However, I would also say it sounds like Volusia County has a couple of hotdogs who wanna be bad@ss cops. Never a good thing. A gun and a badge on someone who has poor judgement or lacks maturity is an accident waiting to happen.
I think I will just avoid FLA alltogether, or at least Volusia County. Maybe when the county officials realize how much damage their reputation has/is suffering they will insist something be done to prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future.
An aside: Some time back a friend who lived in a somewhat secluded area and who had reason to be concerned about his well being had a run-in w/ a cop. An UNMARKED car, w/ a plainclothes officer came to his house and back his lane. The cop was investigating something (unrelated to my buddy) and drove past multiple NO TRESSPASSING signs and got out of the car, knocked on the door and got no answer. My buddy was in his shop and heard the car, peeked out to see who the hell was at his house, didn’t recognize the stranger. What happened next almost got someone killed.
The cop had heard noises when he got out of the car (buddy in the shop) and after getting no reply at the door started walking around the house. NEVER IDENTIFIED himself. Turned a corner and walked right into the business end of a .45. Cop started to try to draw his own weapon and was quickly dissuaded from THAT act!
Was made to lie down on the ground, searched and allowed up once he was disarmed and his badge produced. Cop then tried to tell my buddy he’d be arrested for assault on a LEO, etcetcetc. Buddy told him great, here’s a cell phone, call your boss and explain what you were doing on my property w/o a warrant, w/o identifying yourself and walking around my property.
Oh, and BTW I’ll be filing a complaint on your actions.
AFA I know nothing ever came of either parties’ issues.
Cop was lucky he didn’t get his head blown off.
This is exactly why I moved to Australia.
I cant help but wonder………would the cops involved tell the public relations person if the had acted inproperly? Whats next…..They kick in the front door of your waterfront home, stick some dye in your toilet to see if it flows to the river? Just boarding the boat in the manner in which they in this county is improper, unprovoked, no cause or complaint. My wife and I as many of you have traveled extensively on the eastern US waters, and this is by fare the most overenforced area we have encountered.Even in the no discharge areas of upstate New York and Canada where I boated my entire life have we ever been boarded for compliance.These guys are cowboys on a personal crusade.Not law enforcement just doing there job.
As a former prosecutor I can say with a lot of experience that “official reports” are always drafted to protect the agency and to put any citizen is a bad light. This tendency is directly proportional to the degree of “authority” used by the officers to create fear and compliance. The fact that the PR arm of the Volusia County Sheriff’s office is engaged leads me to trust the boater over the agency in this case.
I believe that it would be prudent to “stand off” and wait till everyone on board was accounted for, if your worry was safety not jumping on board and rushing in. I was boarded from the rear quarter. My wife was steering in her underwear. My first notice was her yelling someone is getting on the boat. I looked out a port and saw what I thought was a official boat, otherwise I would have come out with a repelling boarders attitude. That would not have been good for either party. On a second note I asked if she could get dressed and the officer said he had seen people in their underwear before.
New Smyrna Beach
We’ve been boarded by the potty patrol in the New Smyrna Beach area at least once (perhaps twice – memory fades for non-events). The officials were courteous, didn’t impede our navigation, and knew what they were doing (they were aware of LectraSan devices and how they worked – unlike the young FWC officer who came aboard in our marina a few months back). I’d always give their version of events the benefit of the doubt, but there’s something that doesn’t ring true in the explanation relayed by the public relations staff of the sheriff’s department.
Why would any boater, faced with a boarding involving three law enforcement officers, suddenly bolt for the companionway only to go
below and start rattling around drawers thereby giving the officer an “excuse” for drawing his weapon and aiming it at the boater? I’m having a little trouble with that version of the events. Not that it couldn’t happen, but I think it is unlikely! I could understand it if the officer had said he was suddenly aware that there was a second person (the first being the helmsman) down below making a lot of noise that he had not been informed about when boarding the vessel. This is actually more likely and is consistent with the version portrayed by the boater, but it isn’t the scenario that the PR people relayed.
Unfortunately, we can speculate all we want and jump to any number of conclusions without knowing all the facts and without having the
opportunity to cross-examine any of the witnesses. We’ll never know unless we start hearing of similar instances and complaints are filed.
If there’s a rogue officer out there, it won’t be long before we hear about it. As someone on the list just said, it’s important for any
aggrieved boater to file a complaint with the officials (and to challenge any “ticket” in court).
Bob McLeran and Judy Young
Most states have water patrol officers legally permitted and required by state law to board boats to check vessel registrations, safety compliance, enough fire extinguishers and lifejackets etc, and MSD compliance. in your home, you cannot be subject to search without ‘probable cause ‘ (ie visible marijuana plants in your window, stolen goods visible in your garage, etc.) but on boats the rules are different..some states even require that your holding tank valve be WIRED shut, not just temporarily shut off.. just be careful out there…
My name is Dana White, I am the Captain in charge of our Special Service Section which includes the Marine Unit. Your e-mail was one of many that was forwarded to me by Sheriff Johnson. I won’t even go into the legalities of the boarding since it appears that you clearly understand the scope of authority regarding that issue. The Captain of the vessel was properly hailed by the patrol vessel. He was clearly aware of their intentions to board his vessel for an MSD Inspection and complied with their orders to throttle back. Both occupants of the vessel were topside in the cockpit area of the vessel. As the patrol vessel came alongside the two deputies completed an uneventful normal boarding. No weapons were drawn at all. Lets keep in mind that both occupants of the vessel were told to stay topside before and during the boarding process. Immediately upon their boarding one of the occupants ran below deck into the cabin area of the vessel. At that point one of the boarding deputies stayed topside while the other deputy checked to see why the other occupant abruptly ran into the cabin.
As the deputy entered the cabin area, he observed the occupant running from the bow area toward the aft cabin. The occupant ran past the deputy who was still giving him orders to come topside. The occupant entered into the aft cabin area of the vessel which was out of sight from the deputy. The deputy heard what sounded like drawers or doors opening and closing while the occupant was still out of sight. It was at this point the deputy drew his weapon keeping it at his side. The deputy again gave verbal orders to the occupant to come topside. The deputy did a quick peek of the companionway and cabin using the bulkhead as cover. He made visual contact with the occupant and observed empty hands. At that point the deputy secured his weapon in his holster which was the only time the occupant observed an un-holstered weapon. At no time was a weapon pointed at anybody on the vessel. I can only hope this gives you a clearer picture of why the deputy safely drew his weapon. Law enforcement officers don’t have the luxury to assume, but if we did, a safe assumption would be that the occupant of the vessel was closing valves and not tending to his morning beacon like stated in his blog.
Our agency takes great pride in how we interact with the public in all situations. As often is the case, there’s more to this story than what was conveniently stated by the Captain who received a $250.00 Dollar ticket. We are by no means overzealous in our enforcement efforts and will not be apologizing for our actions. I hope this information gives you a clearer picture of what factually happened onboard the vessel. Please feel free to contact me if you need any more information on this incident.
Captain Dana White
Volusia County Sheriffs Office
Special Services Section
Your response is appreciated and I wish that you did not have to explain your agency actions. My concern comes from the several boardings in your county that are reflected upon by the many writers in this particular issue. Please, go online and read the many responses – good and bad. Also, there are many boardings taking place throughout the USA by several agencies. Many have been written about – good and bad.
As you are aware, there are many rules, policies, and practices (to put it loosly in public terms – “laws”) relative to entering a home. There are no written policies and there is no training for the average boater to understand boardings.
The result of not understanding how a boarding is to take place is that many people, both sides, express their resulting actions in terms of their training. Most boaters have no training and express their actions in a confusing and conflicting way. The officer, because of his training, can express his actions in a “perfect – by the book” way.
I would suggest that you serve as a model and issue a policy and procedure that can be reviewed (consider it training) and understood by the boating community. We, serious and concerned boaters, will see that the subject of boarding is adequately discussed on our blogs, in our association newsletters, and at our rendezvous and meetings. There are thousands of members and I promise you – they will take it seriously.
I would suggest that your agency take “public training about boardings” on as a project. Apply for some grant money and get your agency some recognition. Serve the public by offering your insight into the necessary training and understanding that the boaters need about boardings. Otherwise, you will be facing this issue many more times and it will only result in bad feelings on both sides.
We consider our boats to be our homes. Our boats are boarded some several times on a trip of just a few miles or a few thousand miles. Most of the time we have done nothing wrong, but we are subjected to boardings to which we are not trained.
Thank you for your consideration of this matter.
Louis M. Wade, Jr.
It is becoming more apparent that the police were wrong in this case by their official responses. In neither response, both from Gary Davidson and now Capt. Dana White, was there any comment that permission was asked to board – a requirement specifically stated in the written law that they must ask. They can still board if the Captain doesn’t not give permission, but it is specific that they must ask. Capt. White says “He was clearly aware of their intentions to board his vessel for an MSD Inspection…”. If that isn’t clear avoidance of omiting whether they asked, then nothing is. If neither police comments mention this, it is becoming very obvious that they did not ask. How long before they claim they did ask? The next letter from them, after not saying so in the first two? Possibly, but they have already missed the obvious by omission and this is that it is the act of asking permission that is the crux of the matter. Most likely, they didn’t ask and are trying to get around that fact with doublespeak, hoping boaters will not catch it. But why are they not stating the most important aspect of their legal standing? For two possible reasons: They either don’t know the law or are trying to get around their error. Coming clean on which is the case is their only viable option.
I would further like to add that the response by the Sheriff’s office is totally incorrect. Only the US Coast Guard is permitted to board without permission according to the U.S. Supreme Court. All navigable waterways are within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Coast Guard, unless inland or the Great Lakes. I will reemphasize that if the Coast Guard were not derelict in their duties, this incident would not have occurred
This practice from the “locals” has been going on for years in Florida, I’m sorry to say. I have to wonder if the boarding party were deputies fired in Marathon and found another sucker Sheriff to hire them where the incident took place.
I’m a little confused as to where this transgression occurred. At 7 knots I would imagine it was still off shore. As a lawyer I still maintain that these wannabe cowboys of the sea are acting outside their authority.
I’m sure you will remember, Claiborne, back in the day when all the trouble was going on in Stewart over anchoring, that the Coast Guard has neglected their duty in regulating the waterways for decades now. If they actually assumed their legal responsibilities we wouldn’t have the problem with the “cowboys” with their watercraft.
It’s always easier to assault the innocent as to take on the criminal. Criminals might fight back.
Kenneth C. Stump, Esq.
I was boarded by the Volusia County deputies on 10/27 as we were staged with several other boats waiting to go under the New Smyrna bascule bridge. We were dealing with wind and some current, and the deputies boarded us just as the bridge was about to open, so that I had to turn the helm over to my wife who took the boat under the bridge, while I escorted the officers below. I was surprised that they were not considerate enough to wait until we cleared the bridge before they approaced us, and that certainly added to the tenseness of the situation.
I showed the officer my diverter valve which was correctly valved to the holding tank, but cannot be secured because of extremely poor access. The officer agreed that it would be almost impossible to secure the valve with a lock or wire tie, but said that was not his problem. I explained that I had records of having pumped out the previous day and 4 times in the previous four weeks. He issued me a $250 citation.
The officer stated ” I spend three months in the spring and three months if the fall doing nothing but stopping boats going north or south”. I concluded that Volusia County is operating a “toilet trap” that is just like a speed trap, and that their primary interest is to raise revenue rather than to insure the cleanliness of the waters. It seems that this law has given them the perfect tool to generate funds for their raises and toys, while getting to spend their days boating, rather than doing the unpleasant work of serious crime prevention.
My take on the requirement for permission to board is that a boat is just like ones home on land. Boarding the deck is not an invasion of privacy, and if all crew members are on deck, it is not unreasonable to require all to stay on deck until the officer is escourted below.
However, a crew member below could be sleeping, undressed, showering, or adding to the holding tank contents. That person must be allowed to prepare for visitors and then grant permission for entry. If an officer violates this, he is guilty of invasion of privacy and should be subject to disciplinary action or worse.
A written policy should be published for dealing with this, so that all can understand their rights and limitations.
I was able to petition the judge with my pump out records and photos of my diverter valve compartment showing the access problem and the fine was lowered from $250 to $100. I am installing a lock on the compartment door to hopefully achieve compliance with the securing requirement. I must say that this requirement does little to prevent overboard discharge, since the captain and unlock and operate the valve at will (but then logic has never been a requirement for government regulations).
William Lackey SV Jezabel
The incident, as well as the “Information Officer’s” attempt to portray what amounts to armed tax collection as something much less sinister is indicative of the divide that exists between our “armed enforcement agencies” and the general public.
Appearances and practices suggest that the motto reading “to protect and serve” is a relic of the past, unless the target of this “protection” is considered to be government coffers.
As for me, I will not antagonize, but, nor will I ever trust my well being to any representative of our government. I would strongly question the information officer’s assertion that “However, it should be clearly understood that no provocation is required, or even permission needed, for law enforcement to board a craft for the purposes of conducting a lawful inspection”.
I daresay that absent of reasonable cause, a law enforcement officer cannot arbitrarily stop a motor vehicle, neither are they permitted to enter one’s home for the purpose of “performing a legal inspection”. This violates the constitutional tenet of “freedom from unlawful search and seizure”.
Unfortunately, most of the victims of this heavy-handed, unwarranted “revenue generation disguised as enforcement” would rather pay the money and get on their way than to fight the good fight, and the local governments who engage in this despicable abuse of authority are only too well aware of this predilection, and count on it to continue to illegally fatten their coffers by fining innocent citizens.
With behavior like this – is there any wonder in ANYONE’s mind that people absolutely abhor most law enforcement?
Just a guy in the Chesapeake
Sounds to me like Volusia County Sheriff’s Office needs an attitude adjustment. It’s “Protect and Serve” not Regulate and Dominate. They should be ashamed for acting like just another bunch of revenue generating Jackbooted Thugs.
And their PIO’s excuse about the horrors of transient boat sewage is….well…..sewage. Even if every boat out there pumped over every time they used it they still wouldn’t be a drop in the honey bucket compared to land based dogs, lawn runoff and sewage treatment plant overflows.
This is just horse crap. They should be ashamed of themselves.
At one time self governing and accepting responsibility was the norm and fewer laws were needed. The current trend seems to be to create more laws to cover each and every idiot and enforce those laws on everyone without common sense being applied.
Based on the situation described and records of previous pumpouts, SV Jezabel could have received a warning citiation to rectify the marginal issue of difficult access to the valve and added the access lock.
Penalize the masses without just cause is wrong.
There are ways to nab the violators so nail them to the wall, but quit the harrassment.
Search with actual probable cause and not because they can.
The highway trooper and towing a visible load scinario does not fit here.
The land of the use to be free.
There are three solutions to this situation
1Go viral with this story bringing this to national attention as it invoves not only our rights as boaters but our constitutional rights as Americans
2 every one with technology should photo video and record the reckless actions of rogue and rude Marine patrol and sherrifs officers engaged in this kind of conduct
3 A total economic boycott on boaters transiting voulusa county no marinas no gas no resturaunts no nothing With enough pain of no dolars spent in this recession they will need more than 250 dollar citations to support their local govermentLet the local business owners who have the political means change the situation with an untrained undisciplined and frankly dangerous police organization
barring that a full court legal press by citizens and boating organizations and the ACLU.
I will avoid Volusia County and spend my money else where. Aggressive meter maids cost Businesses on shore and on the water.