Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Monday, August 13, 2007

Haun: False Coast Guard Distress Call

In U.S. v. Haun, No. 06-14556 (Aug. 6, 2007), the Court affirmed a conviction for causing the Coast Guard to attempt to save his life, when no help was needed, in violation of 14 U.S.C. § 88(c). The defendant allegedly faked his disappearance while out on a boating trip off of Panama City, Florida. A Coast Guard search for him ensued.
Haun claimed that he did not violate the statute, because a state agency, not Haun himself, nor even the persons on the boat from which he disappeared, placed the distress call to the Coast Guard. Citing the legislative history of the statute, the Court noted that Congress meant to punish not just those who send a false distress message, but also those who, indirectly, by their conduct, cause the Coast Guard to attempt to save life when no help is needed. Here, Haun’s actions were done intentionally, with a bad purpose. He faked his disappearance to avoid a court date, and knew that his disappearance would be reported to authorities.