I purchased a 24' Sailboat around the beginning of September 2018, with plans to teach my son how to sail. I took the boat to the Ballard Park area of Melbourne, FL and moored it out. Ballard Park is a well know anchorage for boats.
Everything was fine for the first month or so, and then one day a Melbourne Police Officer shows up to my home with a handful of tickets for violation of:
Florida Statute 327.50 § (2): No person shall operate a vessel on the waters of this state unless said vessel is equipped with properly serviceable lights and shapes required by the navigation rules.
He was claiming I did not have an anchor light. I immediately went out to fix the anchor light and to my surprise the anchor light was actually working. The light is a solar powered light and it can be seen in the boat picture at the top of the mast.
About a week later the same Police Officer shows up to my home again and gives me another handful of tickets for the same thing. At this time I questioned the Officer about it and informed him that I went out and checked on the boat and the light was working. He told me that the people who lived around the cove were complaining about the boats being anchored out there and that I should just move the boat. I told him the law is not for him to run me out of a place I am legally allowed to be, just because someone else doesn't like it.
After the second round of tickets I filed for court dates and started to research the law. The law states "No person shall OPERATE a vessel on the waters of this state unless said vessel is equipped with properly serviceable lights and shapes required by the navigation rules." as shown in the picture above.
The law has a section that defines the word "operate":
The law specifically states that "operate" means "while the vessel is underway". The definition of "underway" is:
According to 33 USCS foll 30 R 3 (i), the word underway means “that a vessel is not at anchor, or made fast to the shore, or aground.”
I was not "underway" or "operating" ANYTHING! I was home SLEEPING!
After doing some more research, I found out that the City and States jurisdiction only applies to vessels "operating" upon the waters of this state, as per:
Florida Statue 327.58 Jurisdiction.—The safety regulations included under this chapter shall apply to all vessels, except as specifically excluded, "operating" upon the waters of this state.
Otherwise the jurisdiction falls under the United States Coast Guard, who I have seen out there plenty of times and haven't received a single ticket from, obviously because my light was working and they aren't trying to illegally run boats out of places they are allowed to be.
..."jurisdiction of the United States includes territories and territorial waters."
If the U.S. Coast Guard gave me the tickets, that would be fine as they have the jurisdiction to do that. But they didn't because my light actually was working. But even if my light wasn't working, the City Police do not have the jurisdiction to issue me these tickets, as per the law.
There is even a section of the law that states:
327.60 Local regulations; limitations -
(2) This chapter and chapter 328 do not prevent the adoption of any ordinance or local regulation relating to "operation" of vessels, except that a county or municipality "may not enact, continue in effect, or enforce any ordinance or local regulation":
(f) Regulating the anchoring of vessels outside the marked boundaries of mooring fields permitted as provided in s. 327.40, except for:
1. Live-aboard vessels; ...
This section of the law clearly states that THEY ARE allowed to adopt ordinances and regulations relating to the "OPERATION" of vessels...
and MAY NOT enact, continue in effect, or enforce any ordinance or local regulation:
(f) Regulating the anchoring of vessels outside the marked boundaries of mooring fields permitted as provided...
Ballard Park is not a mooring field and my boat was not a live-aboard. The state law is clear, if you are not "OPERATING", you are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Coast Guard, NOT the states jurisdiction.
Over the next few weeks, the same officer continually came to my home and issued me tickets for the same thing (my working anchor light). In total, I have been given over 30 tickets, about $2,500 dollars, in a span of a little over a month, for my "working anchor light". Which they do not even have the jurisdiction to issue.
After the second round of tickets, the officer showed up to my home with more and more police, I assume it was to show these other officers who I am so that they could mess with me, because he is a water cop and not on the streets. On the last occasion they showed up with 3 police cars, to give me "anchor light tickets." It does not take 3 police officers to give me some light tickets. This is not how our government is supposed to operate.
I finally decided to sell the boat because I'm tired of waking up to a gang of Officers at my front door issuing me bogus tickets. I am now fighting these tickets and have hired the best attorney's I could find and I would appreciate any help from any other boaters or really anybody. This is wrong on so many levels. The problem is most of us can't afford the time or the money to fight something like this.
If the United States Coast Guard issued me a ticket, I bet they would have given me time to fix it, kinda like how you have a month or so to fix a headlight if it goes out. They haven't given me a ticket because my light really was working and they aren't trying to run any boats out of places they are legally allowed to be.
This blatant extortion attempt needs to be exposed and corrected.
I would appreciate any help from any other boaters or really anybody. This is wrong on so many levels. This is extortion, lack of due process, blatant disregard for the law by our trusted government officials.
This is a straight money grab by our City Police, this is extortion.
THIS IS WRONG! PLEASE HELP ME!