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Legal Briefing for Ground Team Leaders

Lt. Col. Mark T. Webster, CAP Director of Emergency Services Vermont Wing


Legal authority to conduct SAR operations Civil liability issues Criminal liability issues

Miscellaneous legal issues

Legal authority to conduct SAR missions

Search and rescue is a state function

In Vermont:

is responsible for

Missing aircraft on an interstate flight missing federal aircraft


agency of transportation is responsible for missing aircraft on an intrastate flight or local police are responsible for missing persons


Remember, We work for the state. The state has the final authority in SAR functions

CAP's role in state SAR plan

Vermont has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with VTWG CAP MOU states that we can work on SAR missions Overall control of the SAR mission resides with the Agency of Transportation or Police

Alerting Procedure

AFRCC opens mission AFRCC alerts state command post AFRCC requests permission to contact CAP AFRCC activates CAP for search

Contractual Relationship

Memorandum of Understanding is a contract between Vermont and CAP Contract has a third party beneficiary - the missing or lost person

Third party beneficiary has legal standing and can sue the parties for improper performance

Third Party Expectations

Our teams are properly organized, trained and equipped Our teams are available when needed Teams conduct mission in the most expedient manner, consistent with safety

When are we responsible for injuries

We have a legal duty to perform

We breach our legal duty

Our breach causes damage or harm

Duty to Perform

Duty arises either by contractual relationship or by torts


have a contractual relationship with the victim by our MOU with the state

Tort is a civil liability that arises when we violate the legal standards of behavior between people

torts are assault, battery and trespass

Breach of Duty

Duty of Care: We must conduct ourselves so to avoid negligent injury to the other party Due Care: What a reasonable person would do in the same situation

reasonable person has your level of training a reasonable person follows established protocols and standards

Breach must cause damage or harm to the victim


Ordinary: Failure to use ordinary and reasonable care Gross: Failure to use even slight care Reckless indifference to the truth - this is gross negligence

Actions to minimize civil liability

Keep detailed, accurate logs


why you take a certain action

Do only

is reasonable what is necessary to save a life what you are qualified to do

Check qualifications of team members Insure you are properly equipped Do not interfere with EMT's and CFR's

Good Samaritan Law

If you

reasonable care to save a live or prevent injury provide care up to the level of your training provide care without negligence provide care without compensation

You will be indemnified in a lawsuit


can still be sued Your defense will prevail in the lawsuit

Criminal Liability
We do not have any special status. We must follow all local, state and federal laws Trespass: We do not have the right to enter private property except to


a life Save the property

Deactivating an ELT without permission is a trespass Trespass has both civil and criminal liabilities

More Criminal Liabilities

Assault: An attempt or threat with force to inflict harm on another Battery: Unlawful application of force to another person Conversion: Seizing control of another person's property Interfering with governmental administration All the above have criminal and civil liabilities

Miscellaneous legal issues

Crash site actions


asked, we can provide security


local law enforcement informed or our limitations


55-1, we may not use force or show of force when assisting local law enforcement crash, all we can do is warn trespassers of consequences and notify authorities


More Misc. Legal Issues

Posse Comitatus:

summoning and commanding any person to assist the local sheriff Under US Code, Title 18, Section 1385, Federal military agents can not be summoned to assist local law enforcement Federal enforcement is a violation of the separation of powers between the states and the federal government CAP members, on a mission, are federal agents

More Misc. Legal Issues

Do not make comments on the crash


you want to be called and give testimony as to why the airplane crashed.

National Transportation and Safety Board


all civilian crashes NTSB guidelines Aid and rescue survivors Preserve the crash scene Disturbing the crash scene is a violation of federal law

Protect your team

Protect your team


or omissions that cause harm are torts

Depending on the age of the team member, we could be subject to child abuse or endangering the welfare of a child charges

Sample Crash Site

Legal authority to conduct SAR missions

Search and rescue is a state function

In New York state, by law

conducts SAR in fire towns and towns in fire districts DEC forest rangers conduct SAR in wild, remote or forested areas of fire towns and towns in fire districts Conducting agencies may request forest rangers to assume SAR missions outside of fire towns

Remember, We work for the state. The state has the final authority in SAR functions