As we begin a new Illinois boating season, it is important to know any new laws that can and may affect the boater on Illinois waters. Effective January 1, 2015, three (3) new bills which were signed into law by former Governor Pat Quinn on July 5, 2014 took effect. Already I have heard too many rumors and misunderstandings about these laws. Hopefully this post will help.
Quick Primer on Illinois Legislation
For most folks, how a bill becomes a law is political pseudo-science which mixes two parts alchemy with boring elected folks you may or may not recognize on your ballot every few years. Most of us know “I’m Just a Bill…” from childhood, and actually it’s a pretty good overview of how the federal legislative system works. Enjoy it here:
In Illinois, we have two chambers of the Legislature, the Illinois Senate and the Illinois House. Bills that originate first in the Senate are called Senate Bills and abbreviated “SB” while bills that originate in the Illinois House are called House Bills and abbreviated “HB.” If a bill is approved by both the Illinois House and the Illinois Senate, and then subsequently signed by the Illinois Governor, than that HB or SB will become a Public Act, abbreviated “PA.” The PA will now amend the codified (written down) laws of the great state of Illinois collectively known as the Illinois Complied Statutes of abbreviated as “ILCS.”
Most Public Acts have a waiting period to take effect, usually the first day of the New Year following their signature into law. This allows time to get the law codified and for folks to get used to what changes these new laws will bring to their lives.
There; now you know all you ever need to know about how an Illinois bill becomes a law. And they said my Master of Arts in Political Science would never come in handy…
Illinois Senate Bill 3434 Operating Under the Influence (OUI)
Amends the: CRIMINAL CODE – SEIZURE & FORFEITURE OF WATERCRAFT
P.A. 98-699, effective: January 1, 2015
Bill 3434 Operating Under the Influence (OUI)
Illinois Laws: 720 ILCS 5/36-1, 720 ILCS 5/36-1a, 720 ILCS 5/36-2, 720 ILCS 5/36-3, 720 ILCS 5/36-4
In a nutshell, this new law allows for the seizure of a watercraft used in the commission of certain offenses related to operating under the influence (OUI). The new rules bring penalties for boating under the influence more in line with those for operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol. Before folks panic here, understand that what this law, like the existing seizure of a motor vehicle law, gives a prosecutor another option when dealing with very serious OUI situations.
THE SKINNY: All of these new laws are variants of the original proposals of the anti-Illinois Boating State Senator Julie Morrison. Due in large part to the grassroots efforts of the Illinois Boaters Association and boaters like yourself, Sen. Morrison’s new law is now an extension of existing laws that already come into play in DUI situations. Just like how most DUI cases do not involve the seizure of a car or truck, so too will most OUI cases, which will not involve the seizure of a boat.
Illinois Senate Bill 3433 Mandatory Boater’s Education
P.A. 98-698, effective: January 1, 2015
Illinois Senate Bill 3433
(scroll down to 625 ILCS 45/5-18 for specifics, but this entire page is worth reading at least once)
Illinois Law: 625 ILCS 45/5-18
In a nutshell, this new law requires that all folks born after January 1, 1998 must 1. Take and 2. Pass a boating safety course that is validated by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IL DNR). Anybody born after January 1, 1998 must have and hold a valid certificate before they operate a motorboat with an engine over 10 horsepower on the waters of Illinois.
THE SKINNY: Make sure that one takes an IL DNR approved course. There are numerous courses for boater safety online. I would recommend a person only take one that they are sure is approved by IL DNR.
625 ILCS 45/5-18
Another note of caution. IL DNR while it does have its own police force is not as sophisticated as most modern police agencies. Should you have a family or household member who needs the training certificate, I would highly recommend printing a hard copy of this certificate and keeping it in a water proof bag on the actual watercraft the youngster is operating. This simple proactive step can mean the difference between a ticket and court appearance, and an enjoyable day out on the water.
Illinois Senate Bill 2731 New Skier Tow Rules
Amends the: BOAT REGISTRATION AND SAFETY ACT – WATERCRAFT TOWING
P.A. 98-697, Effective January 1, 2015
625 ILCS 45/5-14
In a nutshell, this new law, which amends the Illinois Boat Registration and Safety Act requires that any watercraft that is towing a person, such a water skier or tuber must display a bright ORANGE flag measuring not less than twelve (12) inches per side. This warning flag must be displayed from the time a person to be towed (or water skier) leaves the boat and enters the water and must remain displayed until they return to the boat. The flag must fly from the highest part of the vessel as well.
Yes that is an ORANGE flag. A quick Google search found dozens of fairly cheap flags that will suffice such as these for example.
THE SKINNY: The reality is that while IL DNR is a fine government agency (for the most part), their police officers, especially when patrolling on the Chain O’Lakes, are primary motivated by issuing fines and citations that bring in revenue to the Department. IL DNR initiates hundreds if not thousands of stop or Illinois boaters throughout the season. Ostensibly for safety, the reality is they are looking to issue fines and citations.
One cannot forget that anti-boating State Senator Julie Morrison sponsored the original monstrosities that thankfully never became Illinois laws. That being said, it is a safe bet that IL DNR and other law enforcement agencies on the water this summer cannot wait to issue fines to anybody not displaying the ORANGE safety flag and daring to tow a water skier or a tuber.
A new boating season is dawning and with it, new Illinois boating laws. Being forewarned is being forearmed. Educate yourself before you pull away from the dock so that your days on the water are as enjoyable and hassle free as possible.
There is an ongoing war on Illinois boating and the Illinois Boaters Association is your best voice in this battle to ensure that you are heard. If you are a member of the Illinois Boaters Association, thank you. If you are not, why not? We need you voice and your support. If you own a business in Illinois and support safe and common sense Illinois boating laws, why not become a corporate partner?
Have a wonderful and safe 2015 boating season!
About the author: Attorney David A. Zipp is the managing partner of David A. Zipp, P.C. a general practice law firm located in Fox Lake, Illinois. Attorney Zipp and his team routinely serve criminal and civil clients in Lake and McHenry counties. Attorney Zipp is a former United States Marine, an elected member of the Gavin District 37 Board of Education in Ingleside, Illinois, a Master Mason, Knight of Columbus and is honored to serve as the Executive Director of the Illinois Boater’s Association. Attorney Zipp lives on the shores of Long Lake, in Ingleside Illinois with his wife, an academic doctor and a ever-changing variety of cats, dogs, and chickens.