A Coast Guard port inspection of an incoming vessel led to reasonable suspicion for its more detailed search. United States v. Vastardis, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 195486 (D. Del. Nov. 12, 2019):
The Coast Guard did not violate the Fourth Amendment when it searched the MIT Evridiki. Binding Third Circuit precedent holds that the Coast Guard can conduct a warrantless search of a vessel given a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Varlack Ventures, Inc., 149 F.3d at 217. The Coast Guard boarded the MIT Evridiki for the purpose of conducting a Port State Control examination. Such an examination includes inspecting documents and doing safety testing.
The March 11, 2019 inspection and search of the MIT Evridiki complied with the statutory requirements. The Coast Guard first inspected the documents, then examined the equipment to verify substantial compliance with the documents and codes. The Oily Water Separator, upon examination, raised questions and concerns for the Coast Guard. Thus, they expanded their examination to an extended MARPOL investigation as to the Oily Water Separator. During the examination, the Coast Guard authorities developed a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity related to the Oily Water Separator. Specifically, they noticed inconsistencies with the Oil Record Book and irregularities related to the setup of the equipment. Once the Coast Guard developed a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, pursuant to Varlack Ventures, they were free to complete a search of the vessel without a warrant. Thus, the Coast Guard’s search did not violate the Fourth Amendment. I will not suppress evidence obtained as a result of the search of the MIT Evridiki.