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Boat Owners Have Rights Too

Pennsylvania Superior Court recently decided a case in which a boat owner on Lake Erie was stopped by a wildlife conservation officer. The conservation officer boarded the gentleman's boat and cited him for a safety violation.

The conservation officer, however, did not have probable cause to stop the boat. At least a reasonable suspicion is required before a person could be stopped for driving under the influence on the highway.

The Superior Court ruled that an individual's constitutional rights are granted to him or her on the highway or on the waterways. The Court stated that if the State wants to make safety checks for boats it should do so the way the State Police has safety checks for highways. The Court went on to say that by boarding the boat without reasonable suspicion the conservation officer had violated the boat owner's constitutional right against illegal search and seizure. 

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