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People v. Heiple

OPINION FILED JUNE 5, 1985.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

RAE C. HEIPLE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Peoria County; the Hon. Arthur H. Gross, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE WEBBER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant was charged by means of an Illinois conservation citation and complaint in the circuit court of Peoria County with the offense of operating a watercraft without a personal flotation device aboard in violation of section 4-1 of the Boat Registration and Safety Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 95 1/2, par. 314-1). After a bench trial, defendant was found guilty and fined $18 plus $10 costs. This appeal followed.

An agreed statement of facts is contained in the record. With some condensation, it discloses that defendant was operating a windsurfer at a beach location at the Galena Marina on the Illinois River at Peoria. During operation, defendant was not wearing, nor was the windsurfer equipped with, a personal flotation device (PFD).

A windsurfer is both a trade and generic name for an object which essentially consists of a rigid, plastic, foam-filled surfboard to which a fiberglass mast and sail are attached. The mast is not fixed but is secured to a fully pivoting device which allows the operator to turn the sail in a full 360° arc. By standing on the board and manipulating a wishbone attached to the sail, the device can be piloted in much the same manner as a conventional sailboat. In order to change the tack, the operator rotates himself around the front of the mast and repositions the sail.

The windsurfer is 12 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 5 inches thick. The mast supports 65 square feet of sail. If the mast is released by the operator, it drops to the surface of the water, although it remains attached to the board.

The windsurfer is designed principally for one person, although it will support two people. The parties agree that it is a nuisance and hindrance for an operator to wear a PFD, although one may be attached to some portion of the mast.

At issue are various sections of the Boat Registration and Safety Act (Act). Section 1-1 of the Act states, in part, that "[it] is the policy of this State to promote safety for persons and property in and connected with the use, operation and equipment of vessels and to promote uniformity of laws relating thereto." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 95 1/2, par. 311-1.

Section 1-2 of the Act provides the following definitions:

"`Vessel' or `Watercraft' means every description of watercraft, other than a seaplane on the water, used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water.

`Sailboat' means any watercraft propelled by sail or canvas. * * *

`Personal flotation device' or `PFD' means a device that is approved by the Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard, under Part 160 of Title 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 95 1/2, par. 311-2.

Section 4-1 of the Act provides:

"Personal flotation devices. A. It is unlawful to operate any watercraft less than 16 feet in length or a canoe or kayak unless at least one Coast Guard approved PFD of the following types or their equivalent is on board for each person: Type I, Type II, Type III or Type IV.

B. No person may operate a watercraft 16 feet or more in length unless at least one Coast Guard approved PFD of the following types or their equivalent is on board ...


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