Cruise Ship Warrants & Arrests

The Law

The law enforcement agency charged with the responsibility to investigate criminal offenses and enforce US laws on cruise chips is the Federal Bureau of InvestigationFBI. In general, Investigations and Enforcement on cruise ships by the FBI may only be conducted on territorial waters of the United States. Nonetheless, specific factors influence the activities and authority of the FBI: these include:

  1. As has been stated, the location of the vessel
  2. The ownership of the vessel
  3. The nationality of the victim or perpetrator
  4. The nationality represented by the flag being hoisted by the vessel
  5. The points of embarkation and debarkation

The formal legal appellation of FBI’s jurisdiction is referred to as the Special Maritime and Territorial Jurisdiction. The details of this jurisdiction are contained in Section 7 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code.

Jurisdiction of the FBI

In the previous section, it was established that the SMT Jurisdiction accords authority to FBI to conduct investigations and enforce US laws on cruise ships. However, according to the statute, the jurisdiction of the FBI is underpinned by four “ifs”:

  1. As at the time of occurrence, the crime was carried out in US territorial waters, which is within 12 miles of the coast, irrespective of the nationality of the perpetrator or victim, or nationality of the vessel
  2. The vessel either in part or in whole is a US-owned vessel, irrespective of the flag, or nationality of the perpetrator or victim; provided that the vessel is within the maritime and admiralty of the United States of America and not within the jurisdiction of any particular state
  3. The perpetrator or victim of the crime is a US citizen on any vessel during a trip that departed from or will arrive in a US port
  4. The perpetrator or victim of the crime is a US citizen and occurred outside the jurisdiction of any country

Despite the availability of these concrete factors to necessitate action by the FBI, incidents that occur outside US territorial waters often carry an amplified air of complexity. In that, numerous other factors influence FBI’s ability and role in an investigation. In breaking this down, the other two major factors aside the laws of the US are International Law, and the law of other sovereign entities.

In such convoluted scenarios, where investigations by the FBI may implicate the sovereignty interests of other nations (usually when citizens and direct interests of other countries are involved), coordination and consultation with the US government is essential.

FBI’s Investigative Structure for Cruise Ship Arrests and Investigations

Presently, the FBI runs 60 Legal Attaché (also called Legat) offices and 13 sub-offices around the world. These offices are manned by senior-level agents. Owing to robust and established liaison with principal law enforcement agencies in designated foreign countries, these Legats are able to effectively carry out investigative activities where allowable.

The authority of Legats to carry out investigations in foreign countries or to manage FBI extraterritorial teams’ investigations on foreign soil varies widely. Accordingly, each Legat must determine its authority and related responsibility on a country-by-country as well as a case-by-case basis.

Furthermore, the FBI Legats conduct their activities in tandem with Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, and with the Department of State. Although, the DoJ’s Office of International Affairs is more instrumental to investigations and related matters than the Department of State.



The study takes on account all cases of crime opened by the FBI between fiscal 2002 and February 2007.


Within the aforementioned period, 258 cases were opened in total, at an average of 50 cases annually.

  • Of the total number, 71 percent or 184 of the crimes occurred on cruise ships. The shortfall of approximately 29 percent occurred on private vessels, oil platforms, and commercial ships.
  • Of the 184 cases opened on cruise ships, 46 percent or 84 had employees as suspects
  • The leading forms of crimes for which cases were opened on cruise ships were sexual and physical assaults, in that both assaults constituted 77 percent—55 percent for sexual assaults and 22 percent for physical assaults—of all crimes opened on cruise ships


  • On cruise ships, the specific location of most of the sexual assaults was a private cabin
  • The leading causative factor of the sexual assaults was alcohol
  • 37 percent of all sexual assaults cases had employees on the list of suspects
  • 65 of suspected employees in sex crimes cases were non-US citizens
  • Only a tiny percentage, approximately 2 percent, of all sexual assaults were employee-on-employee assaults
  • 59 percent or 60 of all sexual assaults were not prosecuted. The typical reasons for declining prosecutions include
    1. Lack of evidence
    2. Indications that the act was consensual
    3. Contradictory statements of victim, subject, or witness or both


  • In general, 53 of all 258 cases opened within the aforementioned time period were physical assaults, making physical assault the second most frequent crime in the high seas
  • 40 of these 53 cases occurred on cruise ships, while commercial vessels accounted for the remaining 13 cases
  • Unlike sexual assaults, physical assaults took place in several locations, including shared cabins, crew member facilities, casinos and bars, and ship decks
  • Confrontations between adult males could be implicated for a large percentage of physical assault cases
  • Of the 40 cases, employees were victims in two cases, and only one employee was a subject over the five year period of this study
  • Domestic disputes and alcohol were the major causative factors of the physical assaults recorded


  • Within the aforementioned period, only 5 percent or 12 of all cases opened on cruise ships were for missing persons
  • A pattern was conspicuously absent as cases were opened sporadically when studied from a statistical point of view
  • The only notable representation was that cruise ships and private vessels slight had more crime cases opened on them than on fishing vessels and other types of commercial crafts.

Strategic Criminal Defense

If you have been charged with Arson, or believe you may be charged sometime in the near future, call Broward criminal lawyer, Kenneth Padowitz, Esq. to discuss your situation. Kenneth Padowitz is an experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney with trial-proven results from cases across the United States. We handle cases throughout Broward County and all of South Florida, including: Fort Lauderdale, Weston, Miami, Palm Beach, Boca Raton, and Parkland. Don’t let this accusation rob you of your freedom. Contact Kenneth Padowitz, P.A. today to discuss this important matter.



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