Hikers criminally charged for calling SAR

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jdemott
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Hikers criminally charged for calling SAR

Post by jdemott » September 8th, 2022, 8:39 am

Two hikers faced criminal charges in New Hampshire for calling for search and rescue.
https://www.backpacker.com/news-and-eve ... re-rescue/

I can imagine circumstances where it might be appropriate to charge someone for calling SAR, but this doesn't seem like the kind of case where that makes sense. Yes, they got into trouble through their own stupidity, but it sounds like normal human stupidity and inexperience, not gross recklessness. It doesn't seem very sensible to make people reluctant to call for help when they really need it.

Cases where it might make sense to charge someone, for example, could be someone who calls for help, walks out on their own, and doesn't notify authorities, so that SAR keeps looking for the "lost" hiker. Or perhaps someone who is a repeat offender, needing to be rescued from the same stupidity more than once. (I have no idea whether either of those situations happens often enough to worry about.)
Last edited by jdemott on September 8th, 2022, 3:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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texasbb
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Re: Hikers charged for SAR

Post by texasbb » September 8th, 2022, 8:50 am

I think your thread title/subject is misleading. The two weren't billed for SAR, they were charged with reckless conduct and each paid about $250 in fines.

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jdemott
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Re: Hikers criminally charged for calling SAR

Post by jdemott » September 8th, 2022, 3:08 pm

I changed the title from "Hikers charged for SAR" to "Hikers criminally charged for calling SAR." The latter is perhaps more accurate but I think the former actually better captures the outcome, in that they had to make a substantial payment but ultimately weren't convicted of a criminal offense. It also was technically correct in that they were "charged."

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Charley
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Re: Hikers criminally charged for calling SAR

Post by Charley » September 8th, 2022, 4:28 pm

From the article:
In addition to facing criminal charges, hikers in New Hampshire who show up unprepared risk being stuck with the bill. The state is one of just a few places in the country that commonly charge people they deems reckless with the cost of their rescue.
I am now curious about the history of that: is this just a habit of local prosecutors, or is it due to a law? Is it some obscure feature of the Live Free or Die political philosophy?

I wonder how local SAR people feel about this, too.
Believe it or not, I barely ever ride a mountain bike.

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texasbb
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Re: Hikers criminally charged for calling SAR

Post by texasbb » September 8th, 2022, 6:11 pm

Charley wrote:
September 8th, 2022, 4:28 pm
From the article:
In addition to facing criminal charges, hikers in New Hampshire who show up unprepared risk being stuck with the bill. The state is one of just a few places in the country that commonly charge people they deems reckless with the cost of their rescue.
I am now curious about the history of that: is this just a habit of local prosecutors, or is it due to a law? Is it some obscure feature of the Live Free or Die political philosophy?

I wonder how local SAR people feel about this, too.
Virtually every SAR comment I've heard/read on this topic opposes billing for rescues, usually because it would make people reluctant to call for help until it's too late. But this NH situation is maybe a little different.

I've heard of places/situations where people were billed for all or part of a rescue, but this is the first time I've heard of people charged with a crime but not billed for the rescue. Hard to say, but worrying about a criminal record would probably make me more reluctant to call SAR than fear of owing $$ for the rescue.

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aiwetir
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Re: Hikers criminally charged for calling SAR

Post by aiwetir » September 8th, 2022, 10:53 pm

The policy is likely related to the Live Free or Die thing they have going on there.
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retired jerry
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Re: Hikers criminally charged for calling SAR

Post by retired jerry » September 9th, 2022, 5:15 am

some more details

https://www.backpacker.com/news-and-eve ... re-rescue/

"On the afternoon of June 11, the pair wandered off trail in Franconia Notch State Park, and quickly became separated. Not long afterwards, one of the hikers called emergency responders and told them he was “stuck” underneath a ledge high on the mountainside, perilously close to a long fall. After tracking his cell phone signal, responders determined that he was located on the east side of the Franconia Notch State Park, on a feature known as Hounds Hump."

"“Conservation Officers learned from the two hikers they had no plan for a hike that day. They were not familiar with the area, did not stay on any trail, and did not have any equipment or even footwear for entering such a steep and dangerous location, much less ropes, harnesses, or climbing gear,” the department stated. “Both hikers were issued summonses to court for Reckless Conduct.”"

"In addition to facing criminal charges, hikers in New Hampshire who show up unprepared risk being stuck with the bill. The state is one of just a few places in the country that commonly charge people they deems reckless with the cost of their rescue."

"In 2015, a court held that one hiker, Edward Bacon, had to pay the state nearly $10,000 after he dislocated his hip during a 5-day solo hike in the state."

"When it comes to consistently punishing hikers it deems reckless, New Hampshire is an outlier. Maine, Vermont, Oregon, and Hawaii all have the ability to charge rescue subjects, but generally choose not to."

etc...

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BigBear
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Re: Hikers criminally charged for calling SAR

Post by BigBear » September 9th, 2022, 8:29 am

Liability law has changed completely in the past 100 years. Old postcards of Yellowstone NP, for example, show people looking into the geyser openings...and now, you must stay on the boardwalk. But this is the result of a change from "it's my own fault" to "everyone else has to look out for me."

Mentioned in Erik Larson's "The Devil in the White City" (Chicago Worlds Fair 1893-94), when Feris got his giant wheel moving, it screeched and vibrated so violently that nuts and bolts were raining down. What did people do? They ran to the base of the Feris wheel to be the next one's onboard.

Compare that to current day where a woman in Beaverton sadly is hit by a Max train because she walked around the guard arm and ignored what was happening around her, and the family won in court. Even when she wandered into what anyone else would say is an obviously dangerous situation, the court ruled TriMet hadn't done enough.

The risk of extreme activities no longer pertains to the individual making the choice if they elect to call for assistance. That risk now extends to the rescuers, often volunteers, who must decide if they are willing to risk their own lives for someone who seemingly doesn't value their own life. Remember, the first step taught to responders is "evaluate the scene."

Probably the most bizarre outdoor rescue I can think of was circa 1990 when someone spot-jumped off the viewing deck atop Multnomah Falls. The winds from the waterfall blew him back to the rock face where their parachute got caught. He dangled helplessly for many hours in the cold water while rescuers tried to figure out if he even could be rescued. There was no fine because the punishment was the fear and hypothermia of having been there for so long.

So, how much a person should be fined (if at all) probably should be a factor of the rescuers' risk and the publics' inconvenience while the rescue is being conducted. It should not be a personal choice to take risks that risk other people's safety and result in a ruining of other people's vacations because a section of the park is shut down for the day. Sure, the other park users are merely inconvenienced, but the person in danger never asked them or even considered the impact to them before doing something wreckless.

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Re: Hikers criminally charged for calling SAR

Post by drm » September 10th, 2022, 6:19 am

How the extreme litigiousness of the US transfers to the wilderness varies, and I think sometimes is more the fault of surviving family members who do not share the wilderness ethic. I think a number of cases have been decided against claimants recently. And some cases in city life would be won if the city fought the case, they just decide it is cheaper to settle than to pay a bevy of lawyers. I think the cost of justice sometimes gets in the way of getting justice.

Here is a different kind of case. New Zealand has a law that SAR may not perform a rescue that puts the rescuers at risk. A few years ago there was a steam eruption of a volcano on a small island while a tour group was there. It instantly killed some of the tour group, but others were severely injured and in desperate straits. Authorities felt a follow-on eruption was very possible and so refused to authorize a rescue. The tour operator recruited a group and went there themselves to rescue the survivors, some of whom had serious burns.

Of course all SAR groups perform an evaluation of safety, but I think NZ has a reputation for being more conservative.

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retired jerry
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Re: Hikers criminally charged for calling SAR

Post by retired jerry » September 10th, 2022, 6:54 am

our SAR are mostly volunteer

it seems like that's asking a lot - volunteer and risk your life

I will do my best not to require SAR, especially dangerous rescues. Like bring my Inreach satellite communicator so I can let them know my precise location and text the nature of my problem.

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