RBOC-supported Bill Revising Penalties for Minor Violations Signed into Law

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law RBOC-supported legislation reclassifying certain boat operation violations as infractions and reducing the associated fines.

SB 1162 [Berryhill] was pursued with the thought that reclassifying penalties for minor violations will result in increased enforcement, and therefore increased compliance, while at the same time reducing the burden on the court system. 

  • When these relatively minor violations carry the weight of a misdemeanor, law enforcement officers become reluctant to issue citations and instead issue warnings which can reduce the effectiveness of the  law to deter the unwanted behavior. 
  • When citations are issued for these violations, with misdemeanor penalties, prosecutors and courts often fail to take action on them because they are considered minor in comparison to other, more serious offenses with which law enforcement and the courts are engaged.

The enacted bill reclassifies the following misdemeanors as infractions, and reduces the associated fines as noted:

  1. Mooring a vessel to a buoy or beacon, except a designated mooring buoy ($100);
  2. Violating a "blue light law" by failing to provide a clear course for a law enforcement vessel ($100);
  3. Owning, operating, commanding, or permitting the use of a vessel at a speed over five miles per hour (mph) within 100 feet of a swimmer ($100);
  4. Owning, operating, commanding, or permitting the use of a vessel at a speed over five mph within 200 feet of an occupied beach, swimming float, diving platform, lifeline, or way or landing float used to fast a boat ($100);
  5. Operating a vessel towing a person on water skis without a person of at least 12 years of age on board, in addition to the operator, to monitor the progress of the persons being towed ($200);
  6. Operating a vessel towing a person on water skis at night ($200);
  7. Violating the United States Coast Guard Navigation Rule 20 relating to navigation lights, which describes timeframe and condition during which vessel operators must comply with regulations on lighting ($100);
  8. Improperly shielding floodlights or headlights that may interfere with proper navigation of approaching vessels ($100); and,
  9. Performing certain reckless or negligent acts including riding on the bow, gunwale, or transom of a moving vessel that lacks deterrents to falling overboard ($250).