By Cheri Hobbs, Esquire
With Spring Break winding down a lot of visitors to the Central Florida area are taking home more than a suntan and souvenirs. Some spring breakers have a Notice to Appear or a ticket to address as a result of having too much fun. Some spring breakers ended up getting more than they prepared for when visiting Florida.
In a 2010 FBI report, Orlando, FL ranked thirteen (13) as the U.S. metropolitan area with regard to risk of crime. And in 2009, the violent crime rate for this city was 178.71 percent higher than the national violent crime rate (according to CityRating).
AVVO, a legal-research organization, did a study in 2011 that found Orlando at the top of the charts when it comes to the most dangerous Spring Break destinations in the country. In addition to Orlando, the following popular Florida destinations were in the studies’ top 10: Daytona Beach, FL (ranked #2), West Palm Beach, FL (ranked #5), Panama City, FL (ranked #😎, Jacksonville, FL (ranked #9) and Miami, FL (ranked #10).
Unfortunately for central Florida, Orlando had the worst average across almost all of the categories that AVVO compiled in the study. Some of the factors used were violent crime risk which included separate numbers for both murder and rape, fatal car crashes and the compilation for concentration of doctors and lawyers. Out of the study came an observation that the higher the concentration of lawyers and doctors in an area the more violent crime results there were. The study uncovered that central Florida had double the amount of violent crime risk and more than three times as many criminal defense questions received through its question/answer forum than any other Spring Break cities polled.
Petty crimes and non-violent crimes are on the rise as well. So what are some of the less violent crimes that might creep up and cause you to hire a defense attorney?
Many spring breakers will obtain and try to use fake IDs when vacationing. A group of friends might designate one of the older looking in their party to try their hand at a fake ID to get alcohol for the group or when attempting to get into a club. Florida is hard on persons using fake IDs. Florida Statutes, Section 322.212 criminalizes (and make a felony) the making, selling, or possession of a false identification card. Many local nightclubs and bars use a scanning machine that will swipe your driver’s license and let the bar security or bartender quickly check the validity of your ID. Often they will just confiscate your fake ID, but you do run the risk of being arrested for a third degree felony. If you get caught and find yourself going for a ride in a police cruiser, you should know that the crime is punishable by up to five (5) years in prison, five (5) years of probation and/or $5,000 in fines. The Court will not typically let you coordinate your court appearance or trial around your mid-terms or finals so you must be sure to appear for all court appearances or get permission to waive your appearance when represented by a lawyer.
Make sure to follow all local laws about alcohol permitted on the beach (or banned), having pets on the beach, camping out, driving on the beach, and other prohibitions should be researched ahead of time. And don’t think you can get it on with your new fling on the sand because if you get caught in the act of having sex you could face some serious prison time and be stuck with a label of “sex offender”.
It is critical you consider hiring a lawyer to represent you should you encounter any Spring Break drama as described above. A good lawyer can defend you in your criminal action but also possibly direct you on how to handle any possible college Honor Code violations.