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Substitute Senate Bill No. 429

Public Act No. 07-179

AN ACT CONCERNING LAW ENFORCEMENT AND FIRE RESCUE VESSELS.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. Section 15-154 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2007):

(a) Any harbor master, deputy harbor master, conservation officer, special conservation officer or state police officer and any municipal police officer, any special police officer appointed under sections 29-18 and 29-19, any town marine officers appointed under section 15-154a and certified by the commissioner for marine police duty and any lake patrolman appointed under section 7-151b may enforce the provisions of this chapter and chapter 446k, except that only peace officers shall enforce the provisions of subsection (d) of section 15-133 and sections 15-140l and 15-140n. In the enforcement of this chapter, such officer may arrest, without previous complaint and warrant, any person who fails to comply with the provisions of this chapter. Failure to appear in court pursuant to such arrest, unless excused by the court or the state's attorney or assistant state's attorney, shall constitute sufficient cause for the suspension by the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles of the boat registration of the boat involved for not more than thirty days or until the matter is resolved by the court, whichever is sooner.

(b) When engaged in the enforcement of this chapter and chapter 446k, such officer shall have the authority to stop and board any vessel which is under way or which is moored on the waters of this state for the purposes of (1) examining decals, certificates and other documents, (2) inspecting safety equipment and waste disposal systems, (3) determining if the operation of such vessel exceeds the noise levels established in subsection (b) of section 15-129, (4) searching when such officer has probable cause to believe that any provision of any law of this state or any rule or regulation of the Department of Environmental Protection relating to boating or water pollution has been violated, (5) determining compliance with sections 15-140l and 15-140n and subsections (d) and (e) of section 15-133, when such authorized officer has probable cause to believe said section or subsection has been violated, and (6) making arrests.

(c) No person operating a vessel shall refuse to stop such vessel or, if sea conditions make stopping in that area unsafe, refuse to take such vessel to a designated area after being requested or signalled to do so by such officer. Any person operating a vessel who refuses to stop or refuses to take such vessel to the designated area shall have committed an infraction. Any person, when signalled to stop by such officer in a law enforcement vessel using an audible signal device or flashing blue lights, who operates such vessel in disregard of such signal so as to (1) interfere with or endanger the operation of the law enforcement vessel or any other vessel, (2) endanger or cause damage to property or person, or (3) increase or maintain speed in an attempt to escape or elude such law enforcement officer shall be guilty of a class A misdemeanor. If such violation causes the death or serious physical injury of another person, the vessel operator shall be guilty of a class D felony, and such operator's safe boating certificate, certificate of personal watercraft operation or right to operate a vessel that requires a certificate shall be suspended for one year. For any subsequent offense, such operator shall be guilty of a class D felony, except that if any prior offense by such operator under this section caused, and such subsequent offense causes, the death or serious physical injury of another person, such operator shall be guilty of a class D felony for which one year of the sentence imposed may not be suspended or reduced by the court, and such operator's safe boating certificate, certificate of personal watercraft operation or right to operate a vessel that requires a certificate shall be suspended for not less than eighteen months or more than two years. Proof of the registration number of the vessel shall be prima facie evidence in any prosecution that the owner was the operator. For purposes of this subsection, "serious physical injury" means physical injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes serious disfigurement, serious impairment of health or serious loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.

(d) Upon the immediate approach of a law enforcement vessel using an audible signal device and flashing blue lights or a fire rescue vessel using an audible signal device and flashing red or yellow lights, any person operating a vessel shall immediately slow to a speed sufficient to maintain steerage only, shall alter course, within its ability, so as not to inhibit or interfere with the operation of the law enforcement vessel or fire rescue vessel, and shall proceed, unless otherwise directed by an officer in the law enforcement vessel or fire rescue vessel, at a reduced speed until beyond the area of operation of the law enforcement vessel or fire rescue vessel. Any person operating a vessel who wilfully or negligently obstructs or retards any law enforcement or fire rescue vessel answering an emergency call or in pursuit of fleeing law violators, shall be fined not more than two hundred dollars or imprisoned not more than seven days, or both.

(e) Any person operating a vessel passing within two hundred feet of a stationary law enforcement vessel using an audible signal device and flashing blue lights or a stationary fire rescue vessel using flashing red or yellow lights shall reduce speed to a speed of slow-no-wake until there is a distance of more than two hundred feet between such person's vessel and the law enforcement vessel or fire rescue vessel. For purposes of this subsection, "slow-no-wake" means operation of a vessel at a speed that does not produce more than a minimum wake and is not greater than six miles per hour over ground, unless a higher minimum speed is necessary to maintain steerage when traveling with a strong current.

(f) A person who violates subsection (e) of this section shall be fined not less than fifty dollars nor more than two hundred dollars.

[(d)] (g) The Commissioner of Environmental Protection shall publish an enforcement manual, conduct training and educational sessions, serve as liaison between the enforcement groups and the Superior Court and shall be generally responsible for the overall coordination of enforcement.

Approved July 10, 2007