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No Fourth Amendment on the High Seas, Couple Finds


January 1993

Steve Decter and his wife learned the hard way that there is little to protect boaters from law enforcement incursions on the high seas after their boat was boarded by the U.S. Coast Guard, hauled for four days to Key West, and then drilled full of holes in a fruitless search for illicit drugs (Dan Keating, "Sailboat Seized, Searched, Damaged," Miami Herald, 12/4/92, 5B).

Decter's boat was identified as fitting a likely profile of a craft that might be carrying illicit drugs. Under the law of the sea, nothing more than mere suspicion is needed for law enforcement authorities to carry out an action such as that against Decter, according to legal scholars cited in the story.