Without question, Florida is the number one area in the United States chosen as a great spot to go for spring break. This may be especially true for many students who live in states that have cold, icy winters. Consider the possibility of shoveling the driveway due to an unexpected spring snow storm versus partying on a warm, sunny beach with white sands and blue waters. It’s easy to see how one may be plotting his or her escape to The Sunshine State even if it is only for a brief reprieve from frigid temperatures. Granted, there is the relatively nouveau trend of choosing Europe as a spring break destination, but there is a long way to go before Europeans will see the swarms of college and high school students that converge upon South Florida. For many, plans to hit the beautiful Florida beaches begin years before they come to fruition. Kids start talking about how cool spring break will be sometimes as early as middle school.
Of course, with the throngs of visitors flocking in to one area in a relatively narrow timeframe, there are bound to be problems that arise. All Florida residents are familiar with the marauding hordes of spring breakers and the tremendous effects, both good and bad, that they have upon the economy, the volume of traffic, the mood of many locals, and the number of traffic citations issued by various law enforcement agencies. The economy begins to burgeon when the tourist season kicks off. This season is usually from the end of October through May 1, with the tail end of the season being the time when we can expect the spring breakers to descent upon our communities. For many retailers such as hotels, bars, restaurants, and gift shops, the last month of the season is a godsend that allows them to make it financially through the slower summer months.
For locals this can be a very frustrating time. The crowds, loud parties, and drunken college kids can throw a serious wrench into the sun-soaked existence of many of us who live here year-round. Imagine dealing with these issues for weeks on end until all of the spring breaks are over. Simple things like not being able to find a parking space at your favorite hang-out can become tedious after a few weeks. As for traffic, it is often difficult to negotiate the highways and byways of South Florida under the best of conditions. Stir is a few thousand inexperienced college-aged drivers who may very well be intoxicated on either alcohol or illicit drugs, and you have a major recipe for disaster. Not only does this present a great hazard to those visiting, but it puts all drivers at greater risk for injury or death as a result of a traffic accident. These visiting drivers don’t even necessarily have to be under the influence of any substance. Their limited experience combined with the increase in traffic and not being on familiar roads all statistically add up to them being at a much higher risk for being involved in a traffic accident.
Sadly, as young adults we tend to think that these kinds of things only happen to other people, but the statistics are there proving that it has to happen to SOMEONE. Add a dash of the bravado that most young men experience, and it is easy to see why this is a major component as to why insurance rates are highest for young males. Of course, with this increased traffic and the propensity of students to abuse the freedom that spring break affords them, there also comes an increased amount of traffic tickets that are issued. During this time of year, there are a lot of cops, and I do mean A LOT, who surreptitiously park in their little hidey-holes just waiting for a driver with an out-of-state tag to pass by. In spite of the fact that the law states that a police officer cannot pull someone over without just cause, many law enforcement officials use out-of-state tags as a reason to pull over drivers and check their licenses, assess whether or not they think the vehicle occupants have been drinking or doing drugs, and whether or not they are in possession of illegally purchased alcohol.
Often, this is a time when students start flexing their “adult” muscles, so-to-speak, but the ramifications for getting themselves into one of these situations can have long-term or even lifelong negative effects. Consider the following scenario. You and your friends go out to party. You all plan to be responsible adults so you get assigned as designated driver. Well, darn. After all, it IS spring break so you think to yourself, “Surely, a beer or two won’t hurt.” You nurse your beer until you and your friends decide to go back to the hotel to party some more. Your lack of familiarity with the area makes you unaware of how many pedestrians and bicyclists there are in South Florida. Since you are not familiar with the local roads, you nearly miss your turn so you execute your turn at the last minute…and then you hear a thud. Far too late, you realize that you have just struck a pedestrian.
When the cops arrive, they smell the alcohol on your breath, so naturally they administer a field sobriety test and a breathalyzer. You thought you were doing the right thing; you thought you were being safe, but now there is someone injured or possibly dead as the result of your poor judgement. It may not have anything to do with the alcohol you consumed, but that is not how it is going to be presented by the prosecutor. If you are found guilty of drinking and driving, you can face the following penalties:
- First offense: $500-$1,000 fine, 50 hours of community service, 6-9 months of prison time and probation up to one year and vehicle impoundment for 10 days
- Second offense: $1,000-$4,000 fine, 9-12 months of imprisonment (with a mandatory minimum of 10 days) and vehicle impoundment for 30 days
- Third offense: $2,000-$5,000 fine, 9-12 months of imprisonment (with a mandatory minimum of 30 days) and vehicle impoundment for 90 days
- Fourth offense: $2,000 or greater fine, up to 5 years of imprisonment (with a mandatory minimum of 30 days) and vehicle impoundment for 90 days
It is unlikely that the fact that you live out-of-state will be taken into consideration when you are sentenced; you will have to serve whatever your sentence is, regardless. If you factor in an injury or death, you can be looking at some serious jail time.
Yes, spring break is a rite of passage for many young people, but keep in mind that the penalties for behaving irresponsibly can be life-altering for you and those around you. If you do come to Florida for spring break, we welcome you and hope that you have a once-in-a-lifetime experience; just make sure it is a positive one. If, however, you happen to be one of the thousands who get a traffic ticket of any type while visiting here, give us a call for a free consultation at 954-967-9888. Our experienced legal team can help prevent a great experience from turning into an awful one.