If you are visiting South Florida for this year’s spring break, the last thing you want to bring home with you is a criminal charge. If this is your situation, it is critical to contact a South Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer who can help you fight for your legal rights and interests.
Due to COVID-19, last year was abysmal for an annual spring break season in Florida however, this year has been looking up. Specifically, many hotels are reporting that they have near full capacity, as several individuals are venturing out for the first time since the pandemic started. Florida is especially popular at this time of year due to the fact that it has not been as rigorous in enforcing health and safety initiatives as other states. As such, people across the U.S. have been looking for a more relaxed change of scenery.
South Florida, especially South Beach, the Florida Keys, Panama City Beach, and Fort Lauderdale, remains a primary spring break destination in the U.S. Accordingly, if you have been placed under arrest for DUI here or another type of crime, you could face significant penalties, which is why it is critical to work with a local Florida criminal defense lawyer who is knowledgeable and familiar with state law and local processes, and who has a protect track record of success in representing out-of-towners in all types of criminal matters.
It is not infrequent for those who come from out of town to assume that the law in their state may carry over to South Florida. However, this is not the case, which is why it is critical that before you head out to imbibe or relax, you should know what crimes could land you in a challenging legal situation. Accordingly, the most common criminal offenses for which South Florida spring breakers are placed under arrest are as follows:
Possession of marijuana – the recreational use and possession of marijuana in Florida is still illegal. The good news however, is that some counties in South Florida have decided that having a small amount of marijuana in your possession is likely not sufficient enough to amount to criminal charges. While the laws regarding marijuana have not changed in Florida, the state attorney made an announcement in February of 2021 regarding the State’s intention to reduce the amount of misdemeanor marijuana cases. He has specifically noted that prosecuting such cases are costly, have no public safety value, and are a counterproductive use of limited resources. Those who violate Florida’s marijuana possession laws however, may be referred to a local drug treatment program. For those who are out-of-state violators, this could prove a challenge, which is why it is critical for a person charged with a marijuana-related offense to contact a skilled lawyer to ensure that everything is properly resolved.
Disorderly intoxication – Florida Statutes Section 856.011 is the state law governing those who engage in drunk and disorderly behavior. Under this statutory section, it is illegal to be intoxicated and endanger the safety of others or property, or be in a vehicle or other establishment and cause a disturbance of the public. To do so constitutes a second-degree misdemeanor that is associated with a maximum 60 day jail term and a monetary fine of $500.
Underage possession of alcohol – pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 562.111, it is illegal for an individual who is under 21 years of age to have an alcoholic beverage in their possession. This includes mixed drinks, beer, liquor, and wine. Keep in mind that “possession” can be constructive (where the totality of the circumstances supports an allegation that an underage person is in possession or alcohol), or actual (where a police officer catches an underage person with alcohol on their person). Here again, a conviction under this statutory section is a maximum 60 day jail term and a monetary fine of $500. One can also lose their driver’s license for between six and twelve months for a first-time offense.
Driving under the influence (DUI) – this is the most serious offense which is common among spring breakers. It is important to understand that the severity of the crime depends upon a person’s level of impairment, whether they were previously convicted of a DUI, and whether they were involved in an accident/anyone was injured. Under Florida Statutes Section 396.193, an individual may be found guilty of DUI if they were driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle and either has a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08% or is deemed to be under the influence such that their normal faculties are impaired. A person convicted of a first-time DUI may face a jail term of up to six months and be forced to pay a monetary penalty of up to $1,000 (this is assuming that the individual was not involved was not involved in an accident and/or hurt someone, in which the penalties are much more severe). Keep in mind that if a person refuses to take a chemical or physical breathalyzer test, then under Florida’s implied consent law, they will receive an automatic one-year suspension of their driver’s license. These types of tests are incident to a lawful arrest and are given by law enforcement with reasonable cause to believe that a person was committing a DUI.
Consult with a DUI Defense Attorney Before Agreement to any Fine or Plea
Within the first 24 hours following a person’s arrest, they will receive a first appearance before a judicial officer (such as a magistrate, judge, etc.). In these cases, it is very common for those who are accused to accept an offer to resolve the case for jail time served and a monetary fine, as everyone wants to just be freed from jail and quickly get the case over with. However, it may be prudent for a person to hold off on accepting a plea and wait to speak with a South Florida Criminal Defense Attorney. Specifically, it may be obvious to the accused that the evidence presented against them may be insufficient to support a conviction. While the desire to be released from jail as soon as possible is undoubtedly reasonable, agreeing to a plea deal could deprive an accused of the chance to have the charge pleaded down (and possibly sealed or expunged). If an accused accepts a plea deal, they are making an admission of guilt and are adjudicated guilty, potential affecting their ability to obtain employment, housing opportunities, and scholarships for years to come.