Spring Break in Sarasota is supposed to be a time for sun, sand, and making memories with friends. But what happens if those memories turn into hearing police sirens and spending the night in a local jail?

Getting arrested during Spring Break can be a scary and confusing experience, especially if you’re from out of town. This guide will walk you through the steps you need to take if you find yourself facing criminal charges in Sarasota.

Criminal Charges on Spring Break in Sarasota

Spring Break is a bustling period in Sarasota and the surrounding areas, with local law enforcement on high alert due to the influx of young adult visitors and the increased likelihood of parties that may lead to unlawful behavior. Visitors of any age must understand that Sarasota authorities are particularly vigilant during this time, and laws are strictly enforced to maintain order and public safety.

The city aims to ensure everyone enjoys their holiday while upholding local statutes and ordinances.

Here’s what spring breakers need to know:

Zero Tolerance for Underage Drinking

The legal drinking age is 21, and if you’re caught with alcohol or under its influence, you could face charges that include underage possession of alcohol or underage DUI. These charges can result in fines, community service, and even suspension of your driver’s license.

DUI Enforcement is Strict

Sarasota police are known to increase DUI checkpoints during Spring Break. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious offense, and the penalties can be severe, including hefty fines, jail time, mandatory alcohol education programs, and loss of driving privileges. For those under 21, Florida’s laws are even more stringent, allowing for a DUI arrest with a blood alcohol content as low as 0.02%.

Disorderly Conduct is a Common Offense

Activities that disrupt the peace, such as public fights, excessive noise, or other disturbances, can result in criminal charges of disorderly conduct. Although it might seem minor, it can carry consequences, including fines and a mark on your criminal record.

Drug Possession is Serious in FL

Florida law prohibits the possession of controlled substances, and this includes not just “hard” drugs but also prescription medications not prescribed to you, as well as cannabis in certain circumstances, despite changes in public perception and legality in other states.

Open Container & Public Consumption are Prohibited

Carrying an open container of alcohol in most public spaces is prohibited in Sarasota. While Siesta Beach, Turtle Beach, and Lido do allow alcoholic beverages, Consumption is also restricted to those over 21, and violations can result in fines or arrest.

Special Ordinances May Be in Effect

During Spring Break, special ordinances may restrict certain activities to control crowds and reduce illegal activities. It’s essential to stay informed about these temporary rules to avoid inadvertent violations.

Be Aware of Noise Ordinances

If you’re staying at a rental or Airbnb, keep in mind that loud parties can lead to a violation of local noise ordinances. Sarasota has specific times during which noise levels must be reduced, and failure to comply can lead to fines and other penalties. This is especially important, considering if the police are called to a party for a noise complaint, they may notice other violations and make arrests.

Beyond these issues, charges related to vandalism, property damage, fake IDs, and petty theft land many people in hot water during Spring Break. The key takeaway? Understanding the legal landscape in Sarasota during Spring Break is key to avoiding unnecessary legal entanglements. Should you find yourself facing any criminal charges, it is imperative to seek legal counsel promptly. An experienced local criminal defense attorney can offer guidance tailored to the nuances of Sarasota’s legal system and help mitigate the potential impact on your future.

What to Do Following an Arrest on Spring Break?

Following an arrest in Sarasota, you’ll likely be transported to a local police station for processing. Here, you’ll be fingerprinted, photographed, and have a mugshot taken. Don’t worry, this doesn’t automatically mean you’re guilty.

Depending on the severity of the charges, you may be booked into the Sarasota County Jail.  Feeling scared and confused is understandable, but staying calm and respectful towards the officers involved can make a positive difference. So, avoid arguing or resisting arrest, as it can exacerbate your situation or lead to more severe charges.

Be Mindful of What You Say

While being respectful is vital to avoiding further legal trouble, be cautious about discussing your case. Admitting guilt or making statements without an attorney present can be detrimental.

Know & Exercise Your Rights

You have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. Don’t answer any questions about the alleged offense beyond your name and address.

  • Your Right to Remain Silent: You have the constitutional right to remain silent. Apart from providing identification, you’re not required to answer any questions about the alleged crime until you have legal representation.
  • Your Right to an Attorney: Insist on your right to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. The court will appoint a public defender if you cannot afford one.
  • Your Right to a Phone Call: You are typically allowed to make a phone call. Use this to contact a trusted family member or friend and ask them to arrange for an attorney.

Understand Bail & Post-Release after a Spring Break Arrest

When you’re arrested, you might be given the option to post bail—a monetary guarantee that you will return for all your court dates. The amount is set based on the offense’s severity, your criminal history, and ties to the community, which might be higher during Spring Break due to the risk of out-of-town defendants not returning.

Here’s a rundown of what you need to know:

Bail vs. Bond

Bail in Sarasota is the money required for your release. A bond is posted on your behalf by a bail bond agent, who typically charges a non-refundable fee (usually around 10% of the bail amount) and may require collateral for the rest.

Bail Hearings

If bail isn’t immediately set or if it’s unaffordable, your attorney can request a bail hearing to argue for a lower amount or your release on your own recognizance (without having to pay bail).

Conditions of Release

When you’re released, you’ll be given conditions you must follow, such as no further law violations, restrictions on travel, or substance use prohibitions.

Post-Release &amp Court Dates

Keep track of your court dates. Failing to appear in court can result in a warrant for your arrest and a forfeiture of any bail paid. Keep track of all court dates and plan to attend them, no matter where you live.

Travel Restrictions

If you’re from out of town, discuss how court appearances will be handled with your lawyer. Some courts may allow telephonic appearances, often at the court’s discretion.

Compliance with Court Orders

You may be ordered to avoid certain behaviors or places and may need to comply with drug testing or other court-ordered requirements.

Stay in Contact with Your Attorney

Maintain regular communication with your lawyer. They’ll need to be informed of your whereabouts and how to contact you. Also, work with your attorney to prepare for court. This could include gathering evidence, talking to witnesses, and other strategies to support your case.

The Legal Process After Being Arrested on Spring Break

Here’s what the court process typically looks like for those charged with a crime or arrested during spring break:

  • First Appearance: Within 24-48 hours of your arrest, you’ll likely have your first appearance before a judge, where bail is set and your rights are reiterated.
  • Arraignment: Here, you’ll be formally charged and will have the opportunity to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
  • Pre-Trial Motions & Hearings: Your attorney may file motions to suppress evidence, dismiss charges, or request other court actions.
  • Plea Bargaining: Many cases are resolved through plea bargains, where you may agree to plead guilty to lesser charges with reduced penalties.
  • Trial: If no plea is reached, the case goes to trial, where a jury or judge determines your guilt or innocence.
  • Sentencing: If found guilty, sentencing will follow, ranging from fines and community service to imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offense.

Penalties for Common Spring Break Charges

  • Underage Drinking: Fines, community service, and driver’s license suspension.
  • DUI: Hefty fines, jail time, mandatory alcohol education programs, and loss of driving privileges.
  • Disorderly Conduct: Fines and a criminal record.
  • Drug Possession: Varies depending on the type and amount of drug but can include jail time, fines, and court-ordered rehabilitation.
  • Open Container/Public Consumption: Fines, community service, and criminal records based on the details.
  • Theft: Fines, restitution to the victim, community service, probation, and potentially jail time for repeat offenses or special circumstances. Petty theft can also lead to a criminal record.
  • Assault: Charges can range from a misdemeanor to a felony, depending on the severity and whether it involves a weapon. Penalties may include fines, anger management classes, probation, and jail or prison time.
  • Sex Offenses: This encompasses a range of criminal acts that are sexual in nature and not uncommon in a spring break atmosphere, from sexual assault to statutory rape. The consequences of sex crime convictions are severe and long-lasting. They can include lengthy prison sentences, hefty fines, mandatory registration as a sex offender, and strict probation conditions upon release.

It’s important to note that the exact penalties can vary based on various factors, including but not limited to the defendant’s criminal history, the specifics of the current charge, and the jurisdiction’s particular laws and standards.

Spring Break Charges for Non-Residents

For a springbreaker in Sarasota, any arrest can be scary. This is especially true for out-of-state visitors unfamiliar with Florida’s legal system.

Appearance Requirements

Sarasota County courts will likely handle your case regardless of your residency. You might need to return to Sarasota for court appearances, though your attorney can sometimes appear on your behalf or request telephonic appearances.

Probation Transfers

If sentenced to probation, you may need to have your probation transferred to your home state, which can be a complex process. Maintaining open lines of communication with your Sarasota-based attorney is crucial, even when you’re back home.

So, suppose you’re visiting from out of state. In that case, hiring a lawyer who can handle legal proceedings on your behalf is crucial, potentially reducing the need for you to stay in Florida for the entirety of your case.

A Local & Experienced Sarasota Defense Attorney is Vital

Should you face the weight of criminal charges, acting swiftly and judiciously is imperative. This is where the true value of a local, experienced defense attorney comes into play.

With an intimate knowledge of Sarasota’s legal system and a network of key players, a local Sarasota criminal defense attorney can change the trajectory of securing the best possible outcome in your case, offering you a better chance at negotiating for reduced charges, dismissals, or less serious penalties. Beyond the immediate concerns about jail or a criminal record, your attorney will guide you in handling charges after you return home and how to best move past an unfortunate incident while on vacation.

Contact Erika Valcarcel for a Free Consultation

Remember, your choices today can have a lasting impact on your life. Enjoy the spring break festivities in Sarasota but remain conscious of your actions and their legal implications.

For students or parents navigating legal trouble after visiting Sarasota, FL, attorney Erika Valcarcel can help. Erika understands what you’re going through, and with her guidance and record of success in cases like yours, she can help ensure that one mistake on spring break does not define the rest of your life.

Call attorney Valcarcel at (941) 363-7900  or contact us online for a free and confidential consultation. We’ll discuss what happened, your options, and explain what’s next.

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