How can I get out of improper light display ticket?
2 attorney answers
It sounds like you had a single "all-round" (360 degrees) white light instead of a separate "masthead light" (225 degrees) and a stern light (135 degrees). If that is the case, get in your boat and turn on your lights. Then have a friend circle your boat while watching your white "all round" light. If your body or anything else in the boat blocks the light at all, your boat is not in compliance with the light requirements of the navigation rules. The other lights can be blocked a little bit (up to 6 degrees) but the "all-round" white light must not be blocked at all.
If your friend reports that your "all-round" light is blocked at all, just pay the ticket. If your friend reports that the light is not at all blocked and is willing to go to court and testify to this, then ask for a hearing and fight the ticket.
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Your description uses both the singular and the plural to describe your lights. Be careful. Under Rule 23 of the Nav Rules, unless your boat does not exceed 7 knots, you should have had both the all-round white, AND sidelights (Red and Green). IF another vessel hit you "over your bow," but not from dead ahead, then it seems unlikely that the white light was in fact obscured by your presence at the helm. I bring this up because of the issue of causation. If there were any injuries on either vessel, or property damage for that matter, then you do not want to "plead guilty." IF the ticket allows a Nolo Contendere (No contest) option, then OK, and following the advice of Mr. Richard is the way to go. Be careful not to plead guilty or take any action that admits fault or that the lights on your vessel were the cause in fact that the accident occurred. In my experience, the high speed at night vessel is much more likely to have had their view obstructed by various gear, bouncing in waves and inattention (no proper lookout). ( I also usually assume alcohol, etc.) Don't let the situation be an admission by you that the after-the-fact and incomplete investigation puts all the blame on you. There is another reason for this approach, and it is that you do not want to prejudice your own insurance coverage, should it come to that, and assuming of course that you had insurance. BTW, if you do not have insurance, take a look and I expect you will find it is not very expensive. This could be a situation where retaining an attorney for the ticket is well worth the relatively small expense. You should at least consult with an attorney, and while it may be hard to find a maritime attorney who does traffic tickets (which this really is), regular traffic ticket attorneys are pretty easy to find. The maritime issues can wait for later.
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