On July 3, 2010 a Brookville man was operating his fishing boat near Gull Point in Lake Erie when a Pennsylvania Water Conservation Officer observed, approached, followed and ultimately boarded the watercraft. The officer claimed that he followed and then boarded the boat because a forward-mounted spotlight, which was in use at the time, washed out the boat's navigation lights. Although the officer determined that the boat's navigation lights were working correctly when the Patrol Boat got next to it, the officer neverthless boarded the boat and discovered open beer cans near the helm. The boat's operator was questioned, then subjected to field sobriety tests and a blood test. The operator was charged with BUI and various boating violations, including reckless operation of watercraft, negligent operation of watercraft and violation of general boating regulations.
After a lengthy preliminary hearing, Erie DUI/BUI lawyer Tim George filed a suppression motion in the Court of Common Pleas. After another hearing and the filing of briefs, the Court held that the Water Conservation Officer needed probable cause or reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to stop and board the boat and, in this case, no such basis existed. As a result, all evidence seized from the boater, including his statements and the blood test results were excluded from evidence and could not be used against him.
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