Lawmaker files bill to make it tougher for marine officers to pull over boaters

This is an equipment safety sticker.
This is an equipment safety sticker.

A state boating-safety sticker could reduce law-enforcement checks on the water if a bill moving through the Florida Legislature is approved.

A key feature of the proposal would require Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission marine officers, county deputies and municipal police officers to have "reasonable suspicion" to stop and check boats that have passed a voluntary safety inspection, the News Service of Florida reported this week.

Current law allows marine officers to stop virtually any boat to perform a safety inspection.

"I just want to give safe boaters the opportunity to be pulled over less," House Bill 703 sponsor state Rep. Ritch Workman (R-Melbourne) told the news agency. "Not that they can't be pulled over at all."

Some boaters told Workman they are stopped by enforcement "almost every time they go out."

Even if passed, officers apparently could still stop boats to check lobster harvests or fishing-bag limits. Boaters operating in a reckless manner also could be stopped, but a description of "careless" operation could be tightened to allow bow-riding.

"If your wife is sunbathing on the front of a boat, you can still be pulled over for it and lectured," Workman said, "but not ticketed."

Workman's bill has passed several House committees. A similar measure (SB 1454) is advancing in the state Senate.

State boating safety-decals are given to boaters who pass a free equipment inspection once. The decals do not expire.