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Thursday, June 13, 2024 | Back issues
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California River Crime Enforcement Compact Is Unconstitutional, Merchant Mariner Says

PRESCOTT, ARIZ. (CN) - A Merchant Marine officer claims the California River Crime Enforcement Compact is unconstitutional, as it allowed officials in Arizona to arrest him for an alleged infraction in California, and prosecute him for it in Mohave County, Ariz., rather than in San Bernardino County, Calif. In his pro se federal filing, Scott Clifford says the Compact violates the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.

In July 2007, Clifford says, he was "captaining a United States Coast Guard inspected tour boat on the California shoreline of the Colorado River at Lake Havasu when he was stopped by a law enforcement vessel from the Mohave County Sheriff's Department that had crossed from Arizona in California territorial waters. The Mohave County Sheriff's Office proceeded to cite and issue misdemeanor complaints and charges against Clifford for allegedly violating provisions of the Arizona State Boating Laws. ...: 'No person shall operate a watercraft in a careless, reckless or negligent manner.' The reprehensible activity by Clifford is alleged to be that he engaged in careless boating by traveling within sixty feet of a skier above a wakeless speed."

More broadly, Clifford argues, "This compact, an agreement between the States of California and Arizona, purports to allow law enforcement and the Courts of the two states to exercise concurrent jurisdiction along the Colorado River, extending that jurisdiction twenty-five miles into the state of the other," the complaint states. "Law enforcement of both states are now using this compact to arrest and cite alleged offenders for conduct taking place in the sister state. That law enforcement agency then compels the defendants to appear and answer for the charges, not in the state where the alleged offense occurred, but in the state and county that is the home base of the law enforcement agency making the arrest or issuing the citation.

"Plaintiff has been arrested and cited by Arizona law enforcement for conduct that took place in California but is being forced to defend himself in the Arizona Courts."He also claims that he "is being prosecuted in Arizona for crimes

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