Every year during the second week of March, I invariably start receiving calls from people - usually college students - arrested while on Spring Break in South Florida.
Most of those arrested during Spring Break are law-abiding citizens with good academic records. They just like to come to South Florida - namely Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale - to relax and shake off the rigors of school.
Alcohol is the most common element of Spring Break crime. Disorderly intoxication, battery, and DUI are very common Spring Break offenses for which partygoers are arrested in Miami and Broward County every year.
If you are not from Florida and you are arrested here, you may have to return for a future court date. If the charge is a misdemeanor, you may be able to have your defense attorney represent you without you having to be physically present in court.
Felony Spring Break offenses can include felony DUIs (DUIs with serious bodily injury to another), aggravated assault or aggravated battery, or felony drug possession (cocaine, felony possession of marijuana, and prescription drug possession).
When you are charged with a crime during Spring Break, you will be taken to jail no matter what. This is because if you do not have a local address, you cannot receive the benefit of a written Promise to Appear (PTA).
Spring Break is supposed to be fun, but oftentimes raucous crowds and lots of alcohol can lead to problems. These problems can create permanent criminal records, even jail or prison time if the charges are serious enough.
If you are confronted with police during your Spring Break trip to Florida, remember to be polite but assert your right to remain silent. So many young people relinquish this right. It only leads to evidence against you.
Eric Matheny is a criminal defense attorney serving Miami-Dade and Broward.