Saturday, March 9, 2013, earmarked the first major spring break week for local communities and law enforcement in Walton County and Okaloosa County. Students from the southeast, midwest and beyond embarked to the Emerald Coast for their brief vacation from their respective college or university. With the increased vehicular and pedestrian traffic as a result of spring break, local attorneys also see and increase in the issuance of Notices to Appear (or Arrests) for Underage Possession of Alcohol, Open House Parties, DUI, and other criminal offenses.
I wrote last year that one spring break weekend alone, per the local newspaper, generated in excess of four hundred citations issued for minor criminal offenses such as Minors in Possession of Alcohol. This year the numbers seem to be headed the same direction. This past weekend’s increased law enforcement presence culminated in the Monday afternoon arrest of over thirty college students at a house in Miramar Beach (Walton County, Florida). Most of the individuals arrested were cited for Underage Possession of Alcohol, Others were cited for Open House Party. All were taken to the Walton County Jail. A link to the Northwest Florida Daily News Article is provided here:
Unique to this situation is that law enforcement made actual arrests in this instance (rather than simply issuing the Notice to Appear). As a result, most (if not all) of these individuals will be greeted with their mugshot being displayed on a variety of internet search engines. Due to the alleged damage to the residence, and the publicity received, it is yet to be seen how local authorities will elect to handle these cases.
The most common offense for college students is ”Possession of Alcoholic Beverages by Persons under the age 21″ (Minor in Possession) – Florida Statute 562.111. In fact, earlier today I learned that just this weekend alone, nearly two hundred notices to appear were issued by the Walton County Sheriff’s Office Beach Patrol Division for this offense.
For an individual who has received a citation for minor in possession(MIP), the law reads in pertinent part: ” It is unlawful for any person under the age of 21 years…to have in his or her possession alcoholic beverages.”
Law enforcement travel on foot and on ATV looking for unsuspecting college students who may be in possession of a beer can, bottle , or mixed drink and whom they believe to be underage. See: http://www.nwfdailynews.com/articles/spring-48251-beach-breaker.html
A first violation of this law is punishable as a second degree misdemeanor and could result in the suspension or revocation of the individual’s driver’s license. In some counties, subsequent convictions may result in jail time.
If an individual receives a Notice to Appear for Minor in Possession or is Arrested for Minor in Possession while in Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Santa Rosa Beach or anywhere in Okaloosa or Walton County, Florida, I recommend that person consult with a Destin criminal defense lawyer. An attorney may be able to assist the individual in obtaining pretrial diversion or a deferred prosecution so the student may be able to avoid a conviction.
Some students, or parents of students, are unaware that the payment of the fine will result in the criminal charge remaining on the individual’s criminal history, unless he or she is subsequently eligible to expunge or seal the offense. In fact, some internet gurus who provide “legal advice” have suggested that the individual simply pay the fine since the fine is only $250.00, but failed to explain the potential ramifications.
Jeremy S. Keich is a Destin criminal defense attorney with an office in Miramar Beach (Walton County). As a Walton County criminal defense lawyer, I have helped clients resolve these spring break offenses and alcohol related offenses.
If you have been charged with minor in possession, driving under the influence or any other criminal offense while in Destin, Fort Walton Beach or anywhere in Northwest Florida during spring break, feel free to contact this Destin Criminal Defense Lawyer at (850) 460-2989 or visit http://www.keichlaw.com for more information.
WARNING: Nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice nor should it be construed as an attorney-client relationship.