The operation and ownership of boats are regulated by individual state laws. Boating laws are similar to state vehicle codes. Safety and operating rules apply to boats traveling on waterways, just as traffic laws apply to cars driving on roads. Boats, like vehicles, generally require registrations. Specific registration rules and fees for boats are determined by each state. The processes for obtaining information or copies of boat registrations are also subject to different state rules.
Researching State Boat Registrations
Identify the boat owner. The owner of a boat may always obtain a copy of his own boat registration. However, when a party makes a request for another party's boat registration, a permissible reason usually needs to be provided. Therefore, the procedures for investigating boat registrations can depend on ownership. A few examples of permissible reasons for obtaining another party's records include requests made for legitimate research needs, legal proceedings, investigations by private investigators and insurance related purposes. Requests must generally be signed under the penalties of perjury, therefore, a person must be capable of supporting any reason offered with proof of its veracity.
Obtain an official request form. In most states, boat registrations are on file with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), or the Secretary of State (SOS). Official request forms are available in person and on line for boat registration inquires. Step-by-step directions are commonly provided with the request forms. Registrations may typically be searched by a boat owner's name or by the water craft's hull number. Most states allow requests to be hand delivered, submitted online, mailed or faxed. Small fees apply for acquiring registration information, ranging from $5 to $15 per request. Certified copies for admissibility in court carry extra fees.
Follow up and be patient. Many state offices are overloaded and understaffed. Therefore, lengthy waits for boat registration requests are not unusual. Requests made in person sometimes are quicker than faxed or online requests. Reasonable follow-up contacts also may facilitate faster replies. Follow-up contact can confirm the request successfully reached the correct destination and is being efficiently processed.
Check applicable state regulations. Because each state does individually regulate boating and registration, a party seeking related information should research her particular state law. Official state websites normally provide all necessary details, parameters and procedures for registration requests. If a person is seeking information to serve an important legal purpose, he should consider retaining legal counsel to assist with the request.
Maggie Lourdes is a full-time attorney in southeast Michigan. She teaches law at Cleary University in Ann Arbor and online for National University in San Diego. Her writing has been featured in "Realtor Magazine," the N.Y. State Bar's "Health Law Journal," "Oakland County Legal News," "Michigan Probate & Estate Planning Journal," "Eye Spy Magazine" and "Surplus Today" magazine.