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Court say crashing into anchored boat isn’t illegal; county appeals

With the size of Lake Coeur d'Alene and other lakes in the region, there's plenty of room for everyone, right?  On any given summer weekend, dozens of speed boats share the surface of area lakes. (FILE / The Spokesman-Review)
With the size of Lake Coeur d'Alene and other lakes in the region, there's plenty of room for everyone, right? On any given summer weekend, dozens of speed boats share the surface of area lakes. (FILE / The Spokesman-Review)

BOATING -- Idaho boaters may want to upgrade their vessels to the equivalent of old Iron Sides if a court ruling on negligent boat driving holds.

Bonner County is appealing a North Idaho magistrate court judge’s ruling that the state’s statute regarding the negligent operation of a vessel is unconstitutionally vague.

That's good news for the boaters who crashed into anchored boats at Priest Lake last summer.

Read on for details from the Associated Press.

The Bonner County Daily Bee reports that Bonner County Deputy Prosecutor Katie Murdock filed the appeal Wednesday asking a 1st District Court judge to determine if Magistrate Court Judge Debra Heise made the right decision in January.

The ruling ended up sinking two cases involving incidents law enforcement authorities say met the criteria for negligent operation of a vessel.

One involved a Seattle man, Todd Frederick Stauber, whose powerboat collided with an anchored cabin cruiser on Priest Lake on July 4 following a fireworks display. The other involved a Sandpoint man, Jonathan Richard Beckley, who crashed his powerboat into an unoccupied sailboat on Lake Pend Oreille in August.

Stauber’s Sandpoint attorney, Bryce Powell, asked the charge against his client be dismissed because Idaho law doesn’t expressly state what conduct is considered illegal.

In his argument, Powell cited a 1958 Idaho Supreme Court case against a motorist charged with negligent driving. The court threw out the charge after ruling the statute was unconstitutionally vague.

Powell said the language in the negligent driving law was similar to the current law involving negligent boating. Heise agreed, and dismissed the charge against Stauber in her January ruling.

In February, Heise’s ruling also led to the scuttling of the negligent boating charge against Beckley. However, he still faces a charge of misdemeanor injury to a child and several violations of the Idaho Safe Boating Act.




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Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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