|Yes. Section 901(a)(10) of the
Fish and Boat Code authorizes waterways conservation officers, deputy
waterways conservation officers and other officers with jurisdiction to
enforce the Code to "stop and board any boat" for purposes of
"inspection for compliance" with the Fish and Boat Code and regulations.
This means that PFBC enforcement officers can stop and board a boat on
the waters of the Commonwealth to inspect it for compliance with boating
Compliance inspections differ from enforcement stops in that an
officer doesn't need probable cause or reasonable suspicion of a
violation to stop a boat for a compliance inspection. When doing a safety
compliance check, officers ordinarily will state the purpose of the
stop. The officers will do an inspection of the boat and the
safety equipment on board to ensure compliance with standards and the
regulations. A compliance inspection may include checks on many
items. Among the items that may be checked are:
- Personal flotation devices. Life jackets save lives and they are
mandatory equipment on all boats.
- Fire extinguishers when required. The inspecting officers
may inspect any required fire extinguisher to make sure it is
operational and its expiration date has not passed.
- Ventilation systems to ensure they are functional.
- Navigation Lighting.
- Compliance with visual and audible signal requirements.
- Compliance with loading and horsepower limits.
Although there are no Pennsylvania cases specifically dealing with
boating compliance inspections, courts in other states have upheld
stopping boats for compliance checks when authorized by state law.
The courts have found that these inspections do not run afoul of the
constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.
For example, in a number of cases, boaters whose boats were stopped
without any individualized suspicion or probable cause
were charged with and convicted of operating under the influence of
alcohol. It is not uncommon for boats to be stopped and boarded
for the purpose of compliance inspections. These inspections play an
important part in boating safety compliance in Pennsylvania.
Boaters should be aware that boats lying at their regular
mooring or berth are not subject to routine compliance inspections.
In such cases, the boats may be boarded by officers executing a search
warrant or in other circumstances (probable cause, consent, exigent
circumstances) when a law enforcement officer can properly board the
Boaters should know that the U.S. Coast Guard has extensive authority
to stop and board boats on waters under its jurisdiction without
probable cause for purposes of compliance checks and other purposes.