A Legal Guide for Florida Spring Breakers: Know Before You Go
Written by Moses & Rooth Attorneys at Law on March 6, 2019
CC image by Ekaterina Vladinakova at Flickr
If you’re heading to Florida for spring break in 2019, the sunshine and warm water may not be all that you encounter. In fact, spring breakers are notorious for getting into legal trouble – typically for things like underage drinking. Before you go, here are a few laws and safety tips that you should review to reduce the risk of an accident and keep you out of legal trouble–
Staying Safe – Avoiding the Four Ds
As a mnemonic device to help you remember safety and the law when you’re on spring break, consider the four Ds that you should always avoid:
- Drunk driving
- Drugged driving
- Distracted driving
- Drowsy driving
All four of the above are, first and foremost, extremely unsafe. When you drive drunk, drugged, drowsy, or distracted, you significantly increase your risk of causing a motor vehicle accident. You may also have legal consequences if you are apprehended for drunk or drugged driving, and even texting while driving is against the law in the Sunshine State.
For those who are traveling for spring break, alcohol typically presents the biggest temptation, and of the biggest health, safety, and legal risks, too. While our law firm does not condone underage drinking, we do want to remind you that if you do drink–whether of the legal drinking age or not–to never get behind the wheel after you’ve consumed an alcoholic beverage.
CC image by Image Catalog at Flickr
In addition to staying clear of drunk driving, remember that it is also illegal to have an open container of alcohol within the car, as found in Florida Statutes Section 316.1936. Remind your passengers that if they want to drink, they can’t do it while your vehicle is in operation.
Find a Designated Driver
Avoiding the four Ds means finding a designated driver if people in your group have been drinking or using drugs. You should also find another driver if those in your group are overly-fatigued; studies show that fatigued driving has the potential to be just as dangerous as drunk driving.
When you’re assigning a designated driver in your group, do so smartly. Characteristics of a designated driver that are important include that the driver has/is:
- A valid driver’s license and auto insurance;
- Responsible; and
- Able to resist the temptation not to drink, even when hanging out with friends.
It’s always a good idea to select a designated driver before you hit the bars or are exposed to alcohol. If there is no one in your group who makes for a safe designated driver, take a cab, use a rideshare, or find another way home.
Know Your Limits
If you will be drinking on this spring break, make sure you do so safely – which means more than just avoiding the driver’s seat. It’s also important that you set and know your limits – how much can you personally consume safely? Don’t drink more than you can handle, and try to stick to the general rule of no more than one drink per hour, coupled with a glass of water in between alcoholic beverages. (Note that depending on who you are, the one-drink-per-hour rule may be very inaccurate.)
When drinking, be sure to always pair your alcohol consumption with plenty of food and water, too.
It’s also important that you familiarize yourself with the symptoms of alcohol poisoning, and keep an eye out for anyone in your group who may be suffering from alcohol poisoning. The American Addictions Centers lists a few of the symptoms of alcohol poisoning as vomiting, hypothermia, seizure, loss of bowel or bladder control, irregular pulse, and blue-tinged skin. If you suspect that anyone is suffering from alcohol poisoning, you should seek emergency medical care/dial 911 immediately.
Alcohol Ban on Beaches
The car is not the only place that you can’t have an open container of alcohol in Florida; alcohol is also prohibited on many of the beaches, too. Refer to the Orlando Weekly for a list of beaches in Florida where you can legally drink alcohol, and note that Panama City Beach has banned alcohol on the beach as an “emergency measure” for this year’s spring break.
Other Important Laws
It’s also important that, in addition to alcohol-specific laws, you also review the rules regarding using a fake ID and public intoxication. As an added safety tip, we also recommend getting vaccinated before coming to Florida, which may offer protection from bacteria and viruses that are often rampant in large gatherings, like those that are found during spring break.
Be Smart About Sexual Assault, Rape, and Other Violent Crimes
CC image by freestocks.org at Flickr
Spring break is no longer just an opportunity for young people to celebrate a reprieve from the grind of university life and get in a little sunshine; it is also a time where many people, spring breakers and otherwise, commit serious crimes, including rape, sexual assault, theft, and assault. During spring break, adhere to the following safety tips:
- Don’t leave a drink unattended – date rape drugs, including GHB and Rohypnol, could be placed in your drink while you’re distracted;
- Travel with a buddy – don’t go to unfamiliar places alone, especially in areas where drugs and alcohol are present;
- Have a plan, including knowing where you’re going and when, and how to get there;
- Don’t give out your information, including where you’re staying while on spring break, to strangers;
- Tell someone where you’re going before you leave and when you plan to be back;
- Keep your belongings close to avoid pickpocketing and theft; and
- If things get heated between you and another spring breaker, walk away – an assault can be dangerous, and could result in criminal charges if you’re involved.
Dos and Don’ts of Interacting with the Police
CC image by Alex Smith at Flickr
If you are pulled over or otherwise stopped by police while on spring break this year, it’s important that you know how to respond to protect your rights and avoid further trouble. When approached by the police, do pull over if requested to do so, and do provide the police officer when your name, driver’s license, and vehicle information. Be polite and respectful, keep your hands on the wheel where the officer can see them, and get out of the vehicle slowly if asked to do so.
You do not need to consent to a search if asked to do so. You can exercise your constitutional right by simply saying that you do not consent to a search of your person or your vehicle, and then asking if you are being detained or if you are free to proceed.
Call a Lawyer if You Run Into Trouble
This spring break, our lawyers hope that you will conduct yourself in a manner that is both safe and lawful. However, if you do run into legal trouble, you’ll need a skilled Orlando criminal defense lawyer on your side. For your initial consultation, please call us at (407) 377-0150 or send us a message directly.