>Federal Court Conviction: "Failure To Notify Coast Guard"


The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that the willful failure to notify the Coast Guard of a hazardous condition on the vessel is a continuing offense for purposes of venue. 

Defendant’s barge was loaded benzene and was under towage by defendant’s tug. While the barge was on the Mississippi River near St. Louis, it sprang a leak, emitting benzene. The pilot on the towboat instructed deckhands to seal the leak with a bar of soap. When notified by the pilot, the port captain instructed the pilot to apply a temporary epoxy patch. Meanwhile, the barge was taken down the Mississippi River to Cairo, Mississippi River, and then up the Ohio River toward its intended destination. 

The epoxy patch failed while the barge was near Louisville, four days after the initial leak. It was then that the Coast Guard was notified for the first time. Defendant was prosecuted and convicted by a Federal court in the Western District of Kentucky.  

Defendant moved for dismissal, contending that the offense was committed, if at all, when the benzene leak initially occurred near St. Louis and could not be tried in any other venue. 

The district court granted the motion and the government appealed.  The Appellate Court ruled that the offense of failing to notify the Coast Guard continued until proper notification was given.  

Since the barge travelled through several Federal districts prior to the notification, defendant was subject to prosecution in any of those districts. United States v. Canal Barge Co., No. 09-5388 (6th Cir., January 7, 2011).