Can you be arrested on a cruise ship at sea?

Cruises are a fun way to experience new cultures and relax without having to fly. However, as the old saying goes: it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.

A fight broke out recently on a carnival cruise ship following an alleged threesome that one of the participant’s relatives found out about and who was — understandably — unhappy. The hour-long brawl eventually involved around 60 people, moving from the fifth floor to the first floor, where another passenger began recording. Security personnel are credited with defusing the situation. When the ship docked in Manhattan, New York police boarded the ship and took action.

Maritime law

Depending on where the ship was at sea when the incident happened, different law enforcement agencies could have been involved. This is due to the complex maritime lawwhich is a body of laws and policies governing nautical affairs.

The United Nations has several conventions in place to help understand how countries should comply with maritime law. Generally, when in international waters, a cruise ship follows the same laws of the country in which it is registered. If the ship is at sea, at the captain’s discretion, you may be held in a separate room until the ship can dock at the next port and local law enforcement can intervene.

What if the crime happened in international waters?

Legal proceedings after disembarkation depend on the jurisdiction where the crime was committed. If the crime was committed in international waters, the jurisdiction is usually that of the country in which the cruise ship is registered. However, if it happens in a port or within 12 nautical miles of a country’s coastline, that country has jurisdiction to intervene.

So in our example, Carnival cruise ships are usually registered in the Bahamas or Panama, which would mean that if our fleet of fighters had begun combat in international waters, they would be subject to Bahamian or Panamanian law. However, the company is owned and operated in the United States, where things become cloudy.

FBI involvement

The FBI gets involved whenever the victim or criminal is a US citizen, the crime is committed in US waters, the vessel is owned by a US company, or the vessel is registered in the US, their investigations will generally be in addition to or in conjunction with local law enforcement. , depending on where they have international collaboration and/or support.

So if you commit a crime at a port in Miami, Florida, the Miami police would have the right to investigate. However, if you were within 12 nautical miles of Miami, the FBI would likely be involved in the investigation when you next dock, whether in New York or Panama, and you would be subject to US laws rather than the Panamanian laws.

In other words: international waters are not a haven of lawlessness. Have fun, but be responsible.

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