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Old June 5, 2012, 08:03 PM   #1
Willie Sutton
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Is a crusing boat a vehicle for interstate transport?

Going cruising... 42 foot boat, Wisconsin to Florida planned via Lakes to the St Lawrence Seaway then thru the Champlain Canal, to the Hudson River, and points south.

This takes me thru... <insert dramatic organ music here>... New York State waters, New York City waters, and NJ waters.



Reading 18 USC § 926A - Interstate transportation of firearms:

Notwithstanding any other provision of any law or any rule or regulation of a State or any political subdivision thereof, any person who is not otherwise prohibited by this chapter from transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm shall be entitled to transport a firearm for any lawful purpose from any place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm to any other place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm if, during such transportation the firearm is unloaded, and neither the firearm nor any ammunition being transported is readily accessible or is directly accessible from the passenger compartment of such transporting vehicle: Provided, That in the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver’s compartment the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console.


This references "Vehicles" and further describes passenger compartments and trunks, but does not actually articulate what a vehicle is considered to be. Obviously it was broadly written to include motor vehicles, but, would a reasonable reading of this proved the same protections to someone moving thru a state at a stately 8 knots rather than 65 MPH? In NY I assume that I would unload, lock in a box, and ditto the ammo.

Being a pilot, I've also wondered if carriage of my sidearm in my airplane would be OK during a stop for fuel in New York or NJ, assuming that it's locked and ammunition is also secured in the same way as it would be in an automobile.


Gents? Someone "who is a lawyer but not my lawyer" want to take a stab?


Willie


.

Last edited by Willie Sutton; June 5, 2012 at 09:36 PM.
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Old June 5, 2012, 08:42 PM   #2
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Sounds like a nice trip and one where I doubt you will be pulled over for speeding......

I also assume that you, like everyone else I know who does similar voyages, has certain "hidey holes" in their vessels...........

Keeping the guns unloaded and locked away, IMO. would suffice - IANAL
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Old June 5, 2012, 09:04 PM   #3
wally626
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Do you have to sail in Canadian waters? that might be an issue.

You can get speeding tickets in boats, lots of no wake zones around, sometimes tightly enforced.
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Old June 5, 2012, 09:22 PM   #4
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I havent sailed that route, but I suspect you will be in Canada for part of the trip in the St Lawrence and to the lake Champlain. That can be be sticky.
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Old June 5, 2012, 09:30 PM   #5
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I believe the intent of the FOPA was to include all travelers, which should encompass travel by watercraft. Just bear in mind that the NYPD and the NYNJPA don't think the FOPA applies in their jurisdiction.
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Old June 5, 2012, 09:33 PM   #6
Willie Sutton
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You can transit Canadian waters and yet not "enter" Canada. To make it simple, unless you clear Canadian Customs, you have rights to what is known as "Innocent Passage". The locks at Sault Saint Marie are an example of a place where passing ships do not have to declare entry... even though one of the locks is in Canada and the other is in the USA.

A bit of a segue, but the bottom line is that I am more worried about being boarded in New York Harbor than anywhere in Canada.

Willie


++++++++++



The St. Lawrence Seaway, opened for navigation by large ships in 1959, is an example of a legal and an administrative regime wholly devised and controlled by the two states (the United States and Canada) that share it. Based on a river in part, the seaway was developed with the construction of bypass canals, locks, and channel improvements, sometimes wholly within the territory of one state. In 1909, Canada and the United States consolidated and extended a number of earlier piecemeal arrangements in the Boundary Waters Treaty (36 Stat. 2448, 12 Bevans 359), to give both nations equal liberty of navigation in the St. Lawrence River, the Great Lakes, and the canals and waterways connecting the lakes. An international boundary line was drawn generally along the median line of the lakes (with some variation in Lake Michigan), but both nations were to exercise concurrent admiralty and criminal jurisdiction over the whole of the lakes and their connecting waterways. The admiralty jurisdiction reflected a disposition to treat the lakes as the high seas. This view was supported by the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Rodgers, 150 U.S. 249, 14 S. Ct. 109, 37 L. Ed. 1071 (1893), when it referred to the "high seas of the lakes."
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Old June 5, 2012, 09:55 PM   #7
younggun85
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If you are in Canadian waters I recommend either leaving the firearms at home or making sure your papers are in order. Canadian firearms laws are strict and punishment for weapons violations can get you incarcerated. Pistols of any sort and most black rifles are either restricted or prohibited. Restricted's require an Authorization to transport (ATT) from the Chief firearms officer of the province you are in, and likely a Restricted Possession and acquisition license (RPAL). You will not be allowed to be in possession of a pistol without a legitimate competition invite or the like. Prohibited firearms (which includes most popular carry pistols) can not be possessed under any circumstance by your average joe. Your average hunting rifle and shotgun are normally non restricted and you need a PAL to be in possession of them here. Long story short canuckistan is a legal cluster**** when it comes to firearms laws. Running afoul of those laws can result in some serious consequences ranging from a criminal record to a stay in the local prison. As a side note although us Canadians are very polite for the most part, you will notice most law enforcement are unaware of legalities around firearms and will assume you aren't allowed to have any guns in your possession. If you are determined to bring guns with you here is the people you will want to consult.
http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cfp-pcaf/index-eng.htm

As a side note, if your route on the St. Laurence puts you anywhere near the native reserve (i think it's akwesasne mohawk to my recollection) your odds of being stopped and boarded are likely to increase 100 fold as it is a known smuggling area.
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Old June 5, 2012, 10:05 PM   #8
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Since your voyage is originating in WI I can say that in WI your boat is considered a vehicle. However its not WI laws that you need to be worried about.

Bear in mind that even if you're in the People's Republic of New York they still don't have the right to board and seize unless they have reasonable suspicion. Keep your nose clean and you should be ok but then I'm no expert on this so I could be VERY wrong.

Canada could be sticky but you seem to already know more about that than I do.
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Old June 5, 2012, 10:12 PM   #9
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With regards to Canada, even if you are searched and contraband is found with no probable cause and the court deems the search illegal it just means the cop gets his pee pee slapped. On many occasions you are still prosecuted for the crime.
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Old June 6, 2012, 03:12 AM   #10
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The new PA law should cover it as it includes non-residents and the law defines almost anything as your 'castle'.
NYC would be a danger place ,they make their own laws .You would also have the Coast Guard to deal with .
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Old June 6, 2012, 05:02 AM   #11
Aguila Blanca
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mete
The new PA law should cover it as it includes non-residents and the law defines almost anything as your 'castle'.
The "new" PA law is a revision of the old PA law that pertains to self defense. It makes PA a "stand your ground" state. It has nothing to do with carry. Unlicensed carry (and transport) of a firearm in a motor vehicle is still illegal in PA except for certain specific destinations. Passing through PA is still subject to the FOPA but the new stand your ground law doesn't apply to this situation in any way.
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Old June 6, 2012, 06:32 AM   #12
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Remember there is a difference between technically abiding by the law and the interpretations of various LEO's, District Attorneys and Judges. You may be "legal" but end up having to prove it in court which means, a lot of time, and MONEY. Is it worth the risk?

I'm a pilot too, (I know it is a stretch considering my screen name) and have a small plane. When I have to land in communist occupied enemy territory, like NY or NJ I leave my gun at home. There is even a risk when not planning to land as you could have to divert to one of these hell holes for weather, mechanical issues, etc.

A better option might be a long gun of some variety. No "assault weapons" however, I am talking a pump shotgun or small, lever action rifle.
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Old June 6, 2012, 06:44 AM   #13
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Caveat: I am a lawyer, but not your lawyer. Free advice being worth what you pay for it and all that . . .

Starting in 18 U.S.C. 921 (Definitions), I find this:
Quote:
(27) The term “motor vehicle” has the meaning given such term in section 13102 of title 49, United States Code.
18 U.S.C.A. § 921

Following that thread over to Title 49, I find this:

Quote:
(16) Motor vehicle.--The term “motor vehicle” means a vehicle, machine, tractor, trailer, or semitrailer propelled or drawn by mechanical power and used on a highway in transportation, or a combination determined by the Secretary, but does not include a vehicle, locomotive, or car operated only on a rail, or a trolley bus operated by electric power from a fixed overhead wire, and providing local passenger transportation similar to street-railway service.
49 U.S.C.A. § 13102

Hmmm . . . this presents a bit of a quandry, and I do not have time to look at this before lunch. According to the statute, "the term 'motor vehicle' means a vehicle . . . " It does not specifically say "boat" or "airplane." There may be some technical argument here over whether boats and planes are "vehicles" within the meaning of the statute, but my gut says that a common sense interpretation of the term "vehicle" will include a "boat" or an airplane. Someone may also have to go off and take a look in the maritime definitions or FAA regs, or somesuch.
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Old June 6, 2012, 08:06 AM   #14
JimPage
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Hansam: "Bear in mind that even if you're in the People's Republic of New York they still don't have the right to board and seize unless they have reasonable suspicion."

You are suscepible to random boarding to check for adequate life preservers, approved signalling devices, etc etc. In fact these boardings are rather routine. Other illegal objects may be found, so don't feel too safe...
The searches are sometimes extensive. I'm a NY resident.
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Old June 6, 2012, 08:13 AM   #15
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Boats are sometimes referred to as "vessels" in books of law, so a search under that term might help.
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Old June 8, 2012, 12:40 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hansam
Bear in mind that even if you're in the People's Republic of New York they still don't have the right to board and seize unless they have reasonable suspicion. Keep your nose clean and you should be ok but then I'm no expert on this so I could be VERY wrong.
You are indeed wrong. Federal, state, and local LE agencies have every authority to board your vessel to conduct a safety inspection (checking your life jackets, signaling devices, fire extinguishers/installed fire suppression systems/navigation lights/etc... If anything looks out of the ordinary during the safety inspection, you get a more thorough inspection to see if there is anything illegal going on. Every American Maritime LE Agency does this. It's the law, it's legal, and it happens.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 14 USC 89
The Coast Guard may make inquiries, examinations, inspections, searches, seizures, and arrests upon the high seas and waters over which the United States has jurisdiction, for the prevention, detection, and suppression of violations of laws of the United States.
Pretty much every state with waterways has their own version of this for the waters under their control.

No one in the Coast Guard will give you a hard time about your guns. Provided that you tell the boarding team that you have weapons on-board and where they are located. Don't transport any NFA items, a lot of boarding officers I've come into contact with don't know the specific laws on transporting NFA stuff.

The odds of you being boarded are fairly low. The odds of you being boarded by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are nearly impossible. The U.S. and Canada have agreements for the Great Lakes; we don't board each other's boats. The CG doesn't board Canadian-flagged vessels and the RCMP doesn't board U.S.-flagged vessels. The RCMP will not even look at you funny if you're just passing through. Just don't make a beeline for Canadian shore... They would get curious about that.

Passing through New York state waters could get a little tricky, but I doubt you'll have any serious problems. Most LEO's on the water tend to focus their attention on pleasure boats grouped together in a big gaggle... Typically means there's some BUI going on. Steer clear of heavily-populated marinas and beachfronts and you'll likely not even get noticed.

If you have any questions about a specific area of the Great Lakes, let me know. I've been to all of them except Superior and I can reach out to the Small Boat Stations over in the east and see what the local LE climate is like.
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Old June 9, 2012, 07:03 AM   #17
Pilot
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Quote:
According to the statute, "the term 'motor vehicle' means a vehicle . . . " It does not specifically say "boat" or "airplane." There may be some technical argument here over whether boats and planes are "vehicles" within the meaning of the statute, but my gut says that a common sense interpretation of the term "vehicle" will include a "boat" or an airplane.

That is an interesting perspective. I've always assumed my airplane was a "motor vehicle", but as you know being an attorney, one should never assume. Interpretations abound, and DA's and/or judges can be wild cards. I'd hate to have to "prove" in a court of law anything that wasn't clear cut.

I usually try to land in states that recognize my CCW permit. However, there are times when that is not possible. Many pilots carry firearms in the survival kits or on their person. It would be interesting to see if there is any precedent defining a boat or airplane as a motor vehicle. The FAA has no jurisdiction on firearms in planes. It is all up to the laws where you land.
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Old June 9, 2012, 07:16 AM   #18
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Interestingly, if I remember the statute correctly, it actually says something like "a vehicle propelled by mechanical power and which travels upon the highways." While such a definition would clearly appear to exclude boats and airplanes, I just haven't had time to do the amount of research necessary to make me comfortable with operating on the theory that "a boat isn't a motor vehicle." That seems counter-intuitive. I'm just concerned that there's another reg or code section that "ropes them back in" to the definition, for lack of a better phrase.
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Old June 9, 2012, 08:23 AM   #19
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Is the boat simply registered with state or is it a uscg documented vessel. I run a 62' performance sailboat and we transit with a few firearms in the safe everywhere we go in the world. For the US if the vessel is documented you mostly become your own little sovereign state. Uscg and customs still have blanket authority but local Leo is much more restricted. We have gone everywhere in the us (including new York city) and never had issues with weapons onboard because we are documented.
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Old June 9, 2012, 05:41 PM   #20
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Not worth the risk.
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Old June 9, 2012, 05:56 PM   #21
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For me, a cruising vessel is a domicile away from home... I do what I want in my domicile and with out a search warrant NO ONE OFFICIAL LACKING A SEARCH WARRANT MAY ENTER IT SO LONG AS I AM IN THESE HERE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!!

This includes the USCG lookin' for smuggled drugs or a harbor master or anyone else for that matter...

Stay on the west side of the river thru Silly-Noise...

Brent
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Old June 9, 2012, 07:35 PM   #22
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The quote that I go by is the one I got from the commander of the coast guard academy when I asked what their jurisdiction was....

"see all the blue of the ocean, that's ours!)

The uscg and customs absolutely does not need any warrant ( for better or worse) to board a vessel within the 12nm limit "contiguous zone" That's been law since congress passed it in 1799!

www.gc.noaa.gov/documents/CZ05_final.pdf

Link to NOAA PDF of maritime zones and maritime law
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Old June 10, 2012, 11:06 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Coach Z
The quote that I go by is the one I got from the commander of the coast guard academy when I asked what their jurisdiction was....

"see all the blue of the ocean, that's ours!)

The uscg and customs absolutely does not need any warrant ( for better or worse) to board a vessel within the 12nm limit "contiguous zone" That's been law since congress passed it in 1799!

www.gc.noaa.gov/documents/CZ05_final.pdf

Link to NOAA PDF of maritime zones and maritime law
Well, you're correct, but there's more.

I can board any US-flagged vessel anywhere on the ocean, up to the territorial limit of another country. Let's say that you're on a 62' yacht 20 miles off the coast of Canada. I can board you any time I please. If your'e within Canada's territorial waters, I cannot board you without contacting the State Dept and them going through the approval network for us to enter Canada's waters for LE missions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hogdogs
For me, a cruising vessel is a domicile away from home... I do what I want in my domicile and with out a search warrant NO ONE OFFICIAL LACKING A SEARCH WARRANT MAY ENTER IT SO LONG AS I AM IN THESE HERE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!!

This includes the USCG lookin' for smuggled drugs or a harbor master or anyone else for that matter...
Brent, I'll tell you first off that I agree with you, that's the way it should be... But that's not the way it is and if you take that stance with a USCG or Customs boarding team that's attempting to board your vessel, things will end badly for you. Long story short: if we/they want to board you, you will be boarded. Wether that's at sea and lasts a few minutes, or we do it the long, difficult way... It'll be up to you, your boat will be boarded, just a matter of if you go to jail or not.

Respectfully,
JGCoastie
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Old June 11, 2012, 08:42 AM   #24
Spats McGee
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Well, I'm glad that I didn't venture further off into these waters than I did. (pun intended) Clearly, there's much more to this than my initial answer included. My thanks to those of you who know more about martime law than I.
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Old June 11, 2012, 09:26 AM   #25
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Quote:
For me, a cruising vessel is a domicile away from home... I do what I want in my domicile and with out a search warrant NO ONE OFFICIAL LACKING A SEARCH WARRANT MAY ENTER IT SO LONG AS I AM IN THESE HERE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!!
You take that attitude, Brent, when FDOW boards your boat while gator hunting and see what happens, let alone the USCG or any other maritime LE agency.....

Momma MIGHT be able to bail you out
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