(1) No person shall operate, use, or store on the waters of this state a vessel the construction of which began after October 31, 1972, for which the department has issued a certificate of title or which is required by law to be registered, unless the vessel displays the assigned hull identification number affixed by the manufacturer as required by the United States Coast Guard or by the department for a homemade vessel or other vessel for which a hull identification number is not required by the United States Coast Guard. The hull identification number must be carved, burned, stamped, embossed, or otherwise permanently affixed to the outboard side of the transom or, if there is no transom, to the outermost starboard side at the end of the hull that bears the rudder or other steering mechanism, above the waterline of the vessel in such a way that alteration, removal, or replacement would be obvious and evident. The characters of the hull identification number must be no less than 12 in number and no less than one-fourth inch in height.
(2) No person shall operate, use, or store on the waters of this state a vessel the construction of which was completed before November 1, 1972, for which the department has issued a certificate of title or which is required by law to be registered, unless the vessel displays a hull identification number. The hull identification number shall be clearly imprinted in the transom or on the hull by stamping, impressing, or marking with pressure. In lieu of imprinting, the hull identification number may be displayed on a plate in a permanent manner. A vessel for which the manufacturer has provided no hull identification number or a homemade vessel shall be assigned a hull identification number by the department which shall be affixed to the vessel pursuant to this section.
(3)(a) No person, firm, association, or corporation shall destroy, remove, alter, cover, or deface the hull identification number or hull serial number, or plate bearing such number, of any vessel, except to make necessary repairs which require the removal of the hull identification number and immediately upon completion of such repairs shall reaffix the hull identification number in accordance with subsection (2).
(b) If any of the hull identification numbers required by the United States Coast Guard for a vessel manufactured after October 31, 1972, do not exist or have been altered, removed, destroyed, covered, or defaced or the real identity of the vessel cannot be determined, the vessel may be seized as contraband property by a law enforcement agency or the division, and shall be subject to forfeiture pursuant to ss. 932.701-932.706. Such vessel may not be sold or operated on the waters of the state unless the division receives a request from a law enforcement agency providing adequate documentation or is directed by written order of a court of competent jurisdiction to issue to the vessel a replacement hull identification number which shall thereafter be used for identification purposes. No vessel shall be forfeited under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act when the owner unknowingly, inadvertently, or neglectfully altered, removed, destroyed, covered, or defaced the vessel hull identification number.
(4)(a) It is unlawful for any person to knowingly possess, manufacture, sell or exchange, offer to sell or exchange, supply in blank, or give away any counterfeit manufacturer’s vessel hull identification number plate or decal or any manufacturer’s vessel hull identification plate or decal which is assigned to another vessel to be used for the purpose of identification of any vessel; to authorize, direct, aid in exchange, or give away such counterfeit manufacturer’s vessel hull identification number plate or decal or any manufacturer’s vessel hull identification number plate or decal which is assigned to another vessel; or to conspire to do any of the foregoing. However, nothing in this subsection shall be applicable to any approved hull identification number plate or decal issued as a replacement by the manufacturer, the department, or another state.
(b) It is unlawful for any person to knowingly buy, sell, offer for sale, receive, dispose of, conceal, or have in his or her possession any vessel or part thereof on which the assigned identification number has been altered, removed, destroyed, covered, or defaced or maintain such vessel in any manner which conceals or misrepresents the true identity of the vessel.
(c) Any person who violates any provision of this subsection is guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
(5) The failure to have the hull identification number clearly displayed in compliance with this section shall be probable cause for any Division of Law Enforcement officer or other authorized law enforcement officer to make further inspection of the vessel in question to ascertain the true identity thereof.
(6) Each vessel manufactured after the effective date of this act for sale in the state shall have a hull identification number displayed prior to sale or delivery for sale in accordance with the regulations set forth in 33 C.F.R. part 181. The hull identification number shall not be altered or replaced by the manufacturer or manufacturer’s representative for the purpose of upgrading the model year of a vessel after being offered for sale or delivered to any dealer.
(7) No person or firm shall assign the same hull identification number to more than one vessel.