Boating law faces constitutional challenge - Bonner County Daily Bee: Local News

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Boating law faces constitutional challenge

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Posted: Thursday, January 10, 2013 10:00 am

SANDPOINT — The constitutionality of Idaho’s negligent operation of a vessel law is being challenged by counsel for a Seattle man accused of crashing his motorboat into a cabin cruiser at Priest Lake.

Bryce Powell, a Sandpoint attorney representing Todd Frederick Stauber, contends the law is so vague that it violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Stauber was charged with violating Idaho’s Safe Boating Act by operating his vessel in a manner which endangered life and limb or another person’s property. The charge arose after Stauber crashed his boat into another boat that was under anchor at Luby Bay on the night of July 4, 2012.

As many as five people, including Stauber, were reportedly injured. The people aboard the cabin cruiser were not injured in the collision, according to probable cause affidavits in the case.

Powell argues the statute is unconstitutionally vague because it does not sufficiently advise the public what is considered prohibited conduct while at the helm of a vessel, forcing people to guess.

Although there are no appellate cases which address Idaho’s negligent operations statute, Powell said its language is nearly identical to that of a negligent driving statute that was struck down by the Idaho Supreme Court in 1958.

The high court held that the negligent driving statute did not define any general or specific acts or even require that the vehicle be driven in negligent, careless or unlawful manner.

“By the terms of the statute, the operation of a motor vehicle on a public highway could endanger or be likely to endanger a person or property without any act of commission or omission on the part of the driver recognized as criminal,” the Idaho Supreme Court ruling read.

Bonner County Deputy Prosecutor Katie Murdock countered that the boating statute can withstand a three-tier validity analysis and added that plowing a boat into somebody else’s vessel is obviously conduct that endangers public safety and property.

“The language is enough to give a reasonably intelligent person an idea of what sort of conduct is prohibited,” Murdock wrote in response to Powell’s motion to dismiss.

Judge Debra Heise heard oral argument from the defense and the state in magistrate court on Wednesday. She took the matter under advisement and said a written ruling would be issued.

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  • Bonner County Taxpayer posted at 10:56 am on Fri, Jan 11, 2013.

    Bonner County Taxpayer Posts: 11

    Question: just how specific should the law be in order to persuade a reckless boater to take responsibility for their actions?

  • Luv83864 posted at 10:52 am on Fri, Jan 11, 2013.

    Luv83864 Posts: 702

    Bryce Powell is a very nice man and father, he was a long time neighbor of my grandmother for many years. However he has a job to do and he does it well , he shouldn't be hated on for doing it. There are people put there getting sex offenders and murderers off. This man obviously is not willing to take Responsibility for his actions, how about if it was his family on the other boat? He needs to put himself in the victims shoes and stop playing the role of a victim. Bryce is the father of two young sons and I don't feel it's fair for them to be hearing this boast judgment in the local paper. Its here for them and their friends. I can think of many lawyers who for a nominal fee do their job well. Mr Powell actually does his job extraordinary well, I just wish he was fighting for the right side.
    Katie Murdock is awesome and is cut to the chase. She will do well in her career.

  • Tom Kelly posted at 10:45 am on Fri, Jan 11, 2013.

    Tom Kelly Posts: 379

    Sorry SdpMom I can't agree with your assessment of Mr. Powell as a decent person. I am sure you think that is true, but it simply doesn't add up. A decent person would not resort to such blatant manipulation of the law for a fee. This is just another example of what is going wrong with this nation. Mr. Powell is being irresponsible at best and his aggressive defense of a clearly guilty client does not uphold the law, it subverts the law. Let's not hold anyone accountable for any action, soon we will have anarchy.

  • MichaelN posted at 10:23 am on Fri, Jan 11, 2013.

    MichaelN Posts: 502

    @SdpMom, sorry if I offended you. I am sure that both are nice people. I just don't find how Powell can defend this man. He slammed his boat into the side of an anchored boat. Guilty! Just because the negligent driving statute in Idaho does not say that "slamming your boat into the side of another anchored boat at night is negligent", does not mean that this man is not negligent and should not be held accountable for his egregious actions.

    SugarShane, I agree with you. That is why OJ Simpson walked free after killing his wife and Ron Goldman.

  • L Wallace posted at 8:58 am on Fri, Jan 11, 2013.

    L Wallace Posts: 1390

    So the fault is not the driver of the moving boat but the law that says don't drive in such a way as to endanger other (parked) boats or boaters? All I can say is wow.

    Mr. Stauber needs to step up and take responsibility & liability for his actions of his property (boat) he owns and is in control of. This is not surprising coming from Seattle, a very liberal town in a liberal state, Washington. This guy is not a nice guy. Shane has a point about the rich being able to challenge the law instead of being responsible.

  • Todd Allen posted at 8:36 am on Fri, Jan 11, 2013.

    Todd Allen Posts: 210

    No one referred to Kate Murdock as a scumbag, now SS made a reference if he ever needed an attorney a "scumbag" lawyer is what he would prefer. Maybe you should comprehend what people are writing. While 99.99% of the time I tend to disagree he is correct in stating an attorney will do whatever it takes to get his client off, and since Mr. Powell is getting paid than he is going to do what ever it takes, I love Kate Murdocks response. Come one Mr. Stauber you plowed your boat into an anchored vessell, take responsibility for your actions!!!

  • Mikeh posted at 8:30 pm on Thu, Jan 10, 2013.

    Mikeh Posts: 1

    Where is our justice in this? We lost every thing in this.[angry]

  • SdptMom posted at 8:00 pm on Thu, Jan 10, 2013.

    SdptMom Posts: 173

    How'about both you guys not referring to Bruce Powell or Kate Murdock as a "scumbag"!!! Truth is, they're very descent persons. Try elevating your conversation on this matter with some common respect. [wink]

  • MichaelN posted at 2:13 pm on Thu, Jan 10, 2013.

    MichaelN Posts: 502

    How about you just take responsibility for your actions.

  • SugarShane posted at 11:42 am on Thu, Jan 10, 2013.

    SugarShane Posts: 200

    This is justice, and a point I tried to make in another letter about how we need to be a nation of Justice. There are two sets of laws, those for the rich, and those for everyone else. Lawyers do what they are paid to, which is defend people. I know if I ever need a lawyer, I want a 'scumbag' one that will do everything in his power to defend me.

  • MichaelN posted at 10:29 am on Thu, Jan 10, 2013.

    MichaelN Posts: 502

    Let's see, Katie Murdock, common sense approach "...and added that plowing a boat into somebody else’s vessel is obviously conduct that endangers public safety and property." Here is another case where a dirt bag lawyer will get his client off with a slap on the wrist and that client does not have to take responsibility for his egregious actions. I say slap his wrist and get it over with, and make the last part of his sentence that he is no longer welcome to use Idaho's waterways. Washington can do whatever they want with him.

    So tired of reading how criminals are getting such light sentences for their crimes. Where is the justice?