HB 1515 and S 1946, currently in front of the Florida legislature, violate the constitutional principle of presumption of innocence by forcing boaters to prove where they have been anchored.
This is the position of the president of the Cruising Rights Network of North America, Wally Moran, who is actively fighting against these bills alongside other boating groups.
“It is the prerogative in law of the officer and courts to show that an individual is guilty, not the reverse. This is a serious flaw in these anti-anchoring bills put forward this session. It will expose innocent boaters to prosecution simply for being at anchor”, according to Moran.
The two bills are described as “anchoring limitation” bills and are intended to limit the length of time a boater may remain in certain yet to be designated areas. The bills were introduced by Senator Polsky and Representative Duggan.
HB 1515 reads in part as follows:
(b)1. For a vessel in an anchoring limitation area under subsection (2), upon an inquiry by a law enforcement officer or agency, a vessel owner or operator must be given an opportunity to provide proof that the vessel has not exceeded the limitations described in subsection (2).
Such proof may include any of the following:
a. Documentation showing that the vessel was in another location at least 1 mile away within a period of less than 30 days before the inquiry.
b. Electronic evidence, including, but not limited to, navigational devices or tracking devices that show the vessel was in another location at least 1 mile away within a period of less than 30 days before the inquiry.
2. If a vessel owner or operator fails or refuses to provide proof that the vessel has not exceeded the limitations described in subsection (2), the law enforcement officer or agency may issue a citation for a violation of this section.
In other words, if for any reason a boater cannot show appropriate proof that they had left the ALA, or “anchoring limitation area”, in the last 30 days, (and there would be many legitimate reasons this could be the case), he or she is given a citation and forced to go to court to deal with the issue.
This is no different that an officer demanding that you prove where you were on the night of July 16, 1992 and charging you with a crime when you prove unable to answer as he demands.
Moran adds: “Two lawyers and a former legislator have told me that in their opinions this section violates the federal Constitution’s concept of “presumption of innocence”. The definition of “presumption of innocence” from an online legal dictionary is useful, and is essentially the same as any other regardless of which source you choose:
“Presumption of innocence: A principle that requires the government to prove the guilt of a criminal defendant and
relieves the defendant of any burden to prove his or her innocence.”
Is there any reason that this has not been brought up to the various committees examining this bill? Isn’t this something vital that they should want to address?
What the law currently requires of a person charged under HB 1515 and S 1946 is that they go to court to prove their innocence, if they could not do so when offered the opportunity by the LEO at the time of writing the citation. And that, to any thinking human being, is the exact opposite of ‘presumed innocent’.”
“I am astounded that these two bills have made it as far as they have, that the members of the Legislature will permit such a gross violation of an entire group’s constitutional rights”, Moran stated.
“Where are the Senators and Representatives who should be looking out for people’s constitutional rights?” Moran concludes.
For more information or an interview, please contact Mr. Moran via email at email@example.com