Tampa Police Department, Gasparilla, and the "Zero Tolerance" Arrest for Open Container
Want to avoid being arrested at Gasparilla?
Last year, the Tampa Police Department's new "Zero Tolerance" policy on open containers caught many by surprise. Although the rain cut attendance in half, the number of people arrests more than tripled. In 2010 more than 413 individuals arrested. Most of those people were arrested and released at the scene with a "notice to appear" citation on a City of Tampa ordinance violation.
Imaginary Line - Wet Zone and Dry Zone
Officials with the Tampa Police Department promise more signs this year. Most of the paper signs last year were destroyed by the rain so most people were unsure where the imaginary line for the "wet-zone" started or stopped.
Possessing an alcoholic beverage outside of the parade route let to hundreds of citations for city ordinance violations. Technically, the "wet-zone" extends from the far curb on Bayshore to the bay.
For those individuals stopped by the police who were from out of town, they were taken to jail, booked and subjected to a mug shot before being allowed to post a $250.00 bond. That arrest record and mug shot is published on the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office website. Other records of the prosecution are published on the Hillsborough County Clerk of Court's website, including details about each court date and the final disposition of the case.
Selective Enforcement of Tampa's Open Container Ordinance
It has been reported that the Tampa Police Department selectively enforced the "zero tolerance" rule by yelling for a group to freeze and then selecting the most cooperative member for interrogation. Some people would keep walking or simply poured the beverage onto the ground. For those individuals who stopped to talk to the police, and admitted having alcohol, the police rewarded them with a citation for "open container." In some cases, the officers took samples of the alcoholic beverages as evidence.
Illegal and Unreasonable Detentions at Gasparilla 2011
Tampa criminal defense attorneys will argue that in many of these cases the law enforcement officers exceeded their authority by illegally detaining individuals without any reasonable grounds to justify the stop. By filing a motion to suppress evidence gathered as a result of the illegal detention, all evidence gathered during the illegal detention could be suppressed. Without evidence of possession of an alcoholic beverage or open container, the prosecutor could be forced to drop the charges before trial.
The Tampa City Ordinance for Open Container is Comparable to a 2nd Degree Misdemeanor
Tampa's city ordinance violation is comparable to a second degree misdemeanor under state law. Both are punishable by 60 days in jail or 6 months probation and/or a $500.00 fine. The notice to appear requires a court appearance in front of a county court judge.
A conviction for a city ordinance violation has many of the same indirect consequences as a criminal conviction for a second degree misdemeanor - including a life-time ban on the ability to seal or expunge any criminal record in the future.
Read the more about Arrested for open container at Gasparilla? What you need to know... which includes a copy of the statutory language for the City of Tampa ordinance violation or watch the video from 10 News:
If you want an alcohol free event, then enjoy the Children's Gasparilla Extravaganza on January 22nd.
Arrested at Gasparilla? Open Container Penalties - Read more about why arrests at Gasparilla tripled even though the attendance was cut in half in 2010.
Update for Gasparilla 2011 Arrests by Tampa Police Department - Video called "Responsibility Matters" narrated by Chief Jane Castor and Officer Roy Paz with the Tampa Police Department. In the video, TPD Chief Castor and Officer Paz explain the TPD Educational Campaign and Zero Tolerance Enforcement Plan for Gasparilla 2011.