Lawmakers propose limits to boat searches

Two state legislators are pushing for a statewide boating law to prevent authorities from randomly stopping and searching water craft without good reason.
Andy Ouriel
Oct 3, 2012


State Reps. Dennis Murray, D-Sandusky, and Rex Damschroder, R-Fremont, introduced a law calling for law enforcement officers to stop boats only when there’s reasonable suspicion the boat or its passengers are violating a law or engaging in criminal activity.  

The proposed law mirrors the rules law enforcement must abide by when pulling over a driver on the road.

“There’s no reason that peaceful, law-abiding citizens enjoying Lake Erie should be subjected to random and arbitrary stops,” Murray said.

“We wouldn’t think to tolerate this on land because such practices are fraught with opportunities for abuse.”

The collaboration between a Democrat and Republican represents a refreshing change, compared to the usual bickering between both parties.

“We both represent the Lake Erie region and understand the importance of the legislation,” Damschroder said. “This is certainly not a partisan issue, and it’s great to have the support of members from both sides of the aisle.”

The proposed law almost identically matches a law recently approved in Michigan, which goes into effect Nov. 1.

Some boaters are enthused about the proposal.

Among them: Sandusky Bay barge party promoter Shaun Bickley, who said the law would support Fourth Amendment rights, which protect people from unreasonable search and seizure.

The law will “promote everyone getting their initial safety checks in the spring, and law enforcement will know those boats are up to speed and won’t have to stop them,” Bickley said. “I’ve got friends who have sold their boats because they have been boarded so many times.”

Boating and lake recreation remain huge contributors to the $1.5 billion tourist industry in Erie and Ottawa counties.



Ha ha ha, sold their boat because they have been boarded so many times! Just when you thought you heard it all, Shaun comes up with another zinger...ha ha ha! I heard people were getting rid of their boats because all the urine in he water at the sand bar.......ha ha ha!


Too bad this will only apply to local law enforcement. All of the Feds will still have free reign to stop as many as they want, as often as they want for no reason. I applaud the local legistlators for at least trying to protect our Fourth Ammendment rights:

"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."


Unfortunately, until a lawyer takes this issue up and it goes to federal court, it will continue under the questionable guise of a safety inspection.


This is an idea that has been a long time coming. The boarding of boats and general harrassment by local, state, and federal law enforcement, under the guise of boater safety has gotten out of hand.

Picture if you will boarding your friends boat in Vermilion for a day out on the lake. Within minutes of getting underway you are stopped by Vermilion PD and boarded for a "Safety Inspection." After wasting 20 min of your time fishing for something to charge you with, you are back on your way. Then after leaving the harbor you are again stopped by state officials, again for a "safety inspection." You explain that Vermilion PD completed one about 10 min ago and show them the paperwork. The officer nods and insists they will have to complete another. 20-30 min go by, still more fishing for a reason to generate revenue. Frustrated, we are back on our way. 30 min later we are anchored on the lake getting ready to cast some fishing poles when a Coast Guard vessel pulls up next to us. One of the men board the boat, yet again, to conduct, you guessed it "a safety inspection." Ticked off by this time, my friend show the paperwork from the previous 2 boardings and grumbles that this is getting ridiculous and that they are noruining our day. The PO apologizes and then says he still has to do the inspection. Another 30 min wasted. At this point we were all ticked enough that we called it a day and returned to the dock. I guess the good thing is, that we made it back without being boarded again.

They honestly should include in the law a mechanism to be inspected prior to putting your boat in the water for the season. Once inspected they could issue an inspection sticker. With the sticker in place you should be exempt from boarding for these "fishing" expeditions. It is so far out of hand currently that boating is no longer enjoyable.


So it's okay to stop and search a person just because or ask for a persons "papers" because they look latino but not okay to make sure you are not in a drunken stupor while boating even tho it's been proven to cause death. Yes, you want the coast guard to rescue you but do nothing to avoid the need for a rescue. It's only an issue when the law effects YOU. CRY ME A RIVER!


Checking for drunk boaters is one thing but this crap of being stopped multiple times in a day for a so-called safety inspection is nothing more than a fishing expedition. Even cops can't LEGALLY pull over a car for no reason whatsoever just to see if the person is drunk, they have to be swerving or doing something that would cause reasonable suspicion. Even when OSP sets up sobriety checkpoints, they are required to advertise its location and the time they are doing it, according to a Supreme Court decision. Heck, if you are a boater, you don't even need to be underway to be subject to these "safety checks." We have had them pull up next to us when we were docked to do it. The fact is the same criteria used by law enforcement on land are not being adhered to on the lake. Law Enforcement are using the excuse of safety checks to do searches which border on illegal. It is nothing more than harassment. If it wasn't, then each agency would accept paperwork that another agency had already done a safety inspection that day. As for asking Latinos for papers, what does that have to do with boating laws.

Tool Box

Ding ding ding, you got that right deertracker. You would think after being boarded twice in the same day a person would have all their safety equipment ready to show the next time therefore not having to be inconvenienced for 30 minutes.

Spy's picture

"State Reps. Dennis Murray, D-Sandusky, and Rex Damschroder, R-Fremont."

Hey, how about that. Bipartisan agreement and working together?


Legislation already exists to prohibit boat searches without cause. It's called "The Fourth Amendment." Since certain government authorities decline to recognize the Constitution they've sworn to uphold, however, legislation to ENFORCE their recognition of our unalienable rights is unfortunately necessary.

Phil Packer

Those are more like, guidelines, actually...


The fourth amendment is for boat owners only? Wha wha wha! Want some cheese with that?


No, the fourth amendment is for all "Citizens" of the U.S.


How often do you get punched in the face? Or are you only a tough guy on here? @ deertracker


Ooooo, the rapper so scares me!




You have no reason to be scared. I was asking a question. I obviously dont know who you are, nor do you know who I am. I am a white salesman. I am not a rapper. I just dont see why you always have to have an opposing opinion on everything that someone posts. In what world should it be ok to get randomly searched for no reason other than to try and squeak money out of the working class. This is America! If you dont like freedom, I suggest you leave and let some other leader feed you the kool-aid


You are right. I have nothing to fear from you. Rick Ross is a rapper..... a big fat black one. You are also right about this being America which means I get to have and voice MY own opinion whether you like it or not. I suggest you accept that or leave and let some other leader serve you up all the TEA you can drink.


Citizens pushing for a police state. "Where are your papers" every two minutes in a supposedly free country, God i wish these obama worshipping nutjobs would just go away.

swiss cheese kat's picture
swiss cheese kat

I agree with you on the Obumer worshipers.


Aawww! Him want his country back? Guess what? It wasn't yours in the first place!


I would like the freedom from having my gov shoot me and being frisked at every turn. This police state your side is pushing for always has bad results, Try learning from history NOT reliving it.


How many times have you been stopped for DWB or shot? REALITY is what you need to learn about.

Swamp Fox

At the end of the day the courts are the ones who interpret and make case law on all search issues. Murray & Damschroder are grandstanding for election day knowing full well this will never see the light of day or have any effect on the Federal Coast Guard inspection/searches...

If by some far fetched reason the state does change the law on stopping boats, the State Watercraft Officers will only have to have a Federal Coast Guard officer on board to stop and inspect/search under Federal authority. Great example of state reps in an election years introducing bills for political gain and little else...


The government & local police could give 2 craps about our rights. MOST (NOT ALL) individuals with a badge or some sort of legal authority dont care....becuase they enforce the law, they feel they are above the law & will do as they please....All they need to do is write the report the way it supports their actions & go about their day. This proposal could go into effect but they will come up with some "legal" reason to search you.


You are ABSOLUTELY correct. These "patriots" on here just don't like it when the ways of this country also apply to them. We all know about the blue wall of silence and the reports say what they want them to say. Reading some of these comment you would think cops are getting ready to shoot people in the streets and invade their homes which is just ridiculous. Minorities and the poor have dealt with injustices for decades and now the boat owners think they are special and can just change the laws to their liking. Boo hoo, they boarded your boat and interrupted your "party". If you are so innocent allow them to do their job and then go on about your way. You guys just love LE when it is the so called "scum of the earth" but when it's you, you cry foul. Get over yourselves.

T. A. Schwanger

Long time coming