Major cruise have come under scrutiny for failing to report crimes committed at sea upon their vessels. Legislative pressure has caused three large cruise lines to publish data regarding serious criminal offenses committed on their ships. The Port of Miami is one of the largest ports of call on the east coast that caters to cruise lines. Our Miami criminal defense attorneys have represented dozens of passengers accused of committing crimes at sea. Three of the largest cruise lines, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian began comprehensive reporting last week. Prior to the new reporting standards implemented by the cruise lines, the Coast Guard maintained only records of criminal cases that had been investigated and closed by the FBI. The Coast Guard is required to maintain records regarding serious cases such as homicides, suspicious deaths, aggravated battery and aggravated assault cases with serious bodily injury, sexual battery cases, and grand theft cases exceeding $10,000.
Carnival released a report that listed 127 alleged crimes reported to have been committed on their ships. The report included crimes that were committed between 2010 and 2013. According to the report were 5 cases involving suspicious death, 38 sexual battery cases and 20 grand theft cases exceeding $10,000. Royal Caribbean and Norwegian reported 94 crimes and 20 crimes respectively. No homicide cases were reported by any of the cruise lines. The majority of the cases involved allegations of sexual misconduct and theft. The numbers provided by the cruise lines encompassed only allegations. The statistics did not mention whether or not the allegation were substantiated or whether criminal prosecutions were initiated by law enforcement authorities. While the cruise lines recently reported in excess of 200 potential crimes, the Coast Guard only has 31 crimes reported over the same period of time.
Spokesmen for the cruise lines have long claimed that the number of crimes committed on ships has always been minimal. They claim that the majority of the allegations are never substantiated and therefore never prosecuted. Politicians remain skeptical that the cruise lines will promptly and adequately report crimes alleged to have been committed on their ships. Legislation is currently in the works that would require accurate reporting and more adequately protect victims of ship board crimes. According to Senator Jay Rockefeller, "If we are going to make a difference for consumers, I believe it is going to take legislative action to make sure this industry is required to give customers information they need and deserve when they are making a decision about taking a cruise."
Other than crimes committed on cruise ships, another important topic is the effect open warrants have on the unsuspecting traveler. On many occasions, travelers are unaware that they have an open arrest warrant when boarding a ship. Prior to disembarking a ship, all passengers are required to clear customs. Passengers with open warrants are arrested and transported to the Miami-Dade County jail. If the warrant is local, a person can post the bond and defend the criminal charges in court. The more precarious situation occurs when an out-of-state warrant exists. In that situation, the arrested passenger will have to deal with extradition back to the state where the warrant was issued. Depending on the charge, a local criminal attorney can contact the prosecuting jurisdiction and attempt to secure a bond. Obtaining a bond can prevent someone from sitting in jail two weeks to a month waiting for the prosecuting jurisdiction to transfer them to the state where the charges are pending.
Miami Cruise Lines Post Onboard Crime Data, CBS4.com, August 1, 2013.