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Gasparilla Pirate Festival Lawyers

Serving Arrestees & Defendants in Tampa Since 2001

Before Tampa earned a reputation as an ideal vacation destination, it was frequented by pirates stopping between their crusades for a bounty on the high seas. Today, these pirates live on through local tradition. Their stories, true or otherwise, are retold through an annual celebration that honors the legendary Spanish pirate captain, Jose Gaspar, who is famous for his feats in Southwest Florida.

The Gasparilla Festival is a colorful celebration of Tampa's pirating past. Unfortunately, some people who attend this event celebrate a little too authentically, so an increase in crime is a less glamorous tradition associated with Gasparilla.

The three-month-long pirate festival officially kicks off with the Parade of Pirates. At this time, hundreds of pirates will sail across Tampa Bay and finish their trip in downtown Tampa. These pirates will be accompanying Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla as they navigate the 165-foot Jose Gasparilla through the water. After this parade, Tampa will have several related community events until March.

Real Results for People Arrested at Gasparilla

If you or someone you love get involved in legal trouble while attending the Gasparilla Pirate Festival, regardless of whether it was DUI, BUI, disorderly conduct, drug crimes, or any criminal offense, we encourage you to immediately get the involvement of Thomas & Paulk, P.A.

Throughout the years, we have successfully handled more than 7,000 criminal cases—including those involving individuals who were arrested at Gasparilla events:

  • In one case, we represented a client arrested for having an open container.
    We convinced the State Attorney to drop all of the charges.
  • In another case, we represented a college student arrested for the underage possession of alcohol. We got the State to agree to drop of all the charges in lieu of community service.

Do not hesitate to contact our Gasparilla Pirate Festival lawyers today for a free case evaluation! Call (813) 321-7323 or fill out our online case evaluation form.

The Gasparilla Pirate Festival & Spikes in Arrests

The annual pirate-themed event has a 100-plus-year history. The legend of Jose Gaspar was popularized in 1904, so he was lifted to become the patron rogue of Tampa's annual celebration. The first year was such a success that the city demanded the organization to become a permanent fixture of the city-wide celebration every year. The celebration of Gasparilla has carried on ever since, missing only 10 years throughout the 20th century. While Gasparilla is an annual celebration known for the fun, it is also known for an increase in arrests around this time. From open container violations to underage DUI, police crackdown on multiple crimes during the festival.

Consider the following statistics from the past few years:

  • 2010 – 415 Arrests
  • 2011 – Nearly 350 Arrests
  • 2012 – 302 Citations & 50 Arrests
  • 2013 – 131 Citations & 68 Arrests
  • 2014 – 3 Felony Arrests & 39 Misdemeanors
  • 2015 - 24 Arrests, 5 Open Container Citations
  • 2016 - 23 Misdemeanors
  • 2017 - 20 Arrests

Though most of the 300,000 attendees will stay out of trouble, some will be arrested for celebrating a little too much. Crime at the event has decreased significantly since 2010, but it is still hard to avoid when such a large group gathers in a dense area to celebrate. During the 2018 Gasparilla, authorities arrested 38 people for crimes ranging from underage drinking to battery. On the water, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission arrested 15 people for boating under the influence.

Crimes associated with Gasparilla often include the following:

  • BUI & DUI
  • Underage DUI
  • Underage drinking
  • Possession of an open container
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Battery

Continue reading to learn more about Gasparilla rules, arrests, and more, or take this opportunity to give our team a call. You can reach us at (813) 321-7323.

Gasparilla Festival Rules, Criminal Charges & Penalties

Important Festival Rules to Know

While there has been a decline in arrests over the last few years, it is still a serious issue. Some of this can be addressed simply by being knowledgeable about the event's regulations.

For example, the following items and actions are strictly prohibited:

  • Underage alcohol consumption
  • Open alcohol containers
  • Kegs or vessels of mass alcohol distribution
  • Styrofoam cups and containers
  • Glass containers of any kind
  • Coolers (exceptions made for medical needs)

By knowing the regulations surrounding the event, you can ensure that you have fun while still being safe and protecting your legal rights.

Gasparilla Pirate Fest “Zero Tolerance” Policy

The annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival is known for community fun, but it is also known for open container violations, fights, underage drinking, and more. For this reason, police officers strictly enforce their “Zero Tolerance” policy. To prep the community for the recent policy changes, police have been engaging in an educational campaign.

In the first year, police visited six local schools to explain the new festival regulations. Now they are showing the presentation to all schools in the area, as well as on social media sites like Facebook and YouTube.

New Gasparilla Pirate Festival Regulations

So, what exactly does the "Zero Tolerance" policy entail? Primarily, the police are enforcing “wet” and “dry” zones. These are areas where you will and will not be able to carry open containers of alcohol. The only areas where open containers will be tolerated are along the direct parade route, as well as in the Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.

Other Gasparilla Pirate Fest regulations include:

  • Nobody can carry around glass containers of any sort
  • Alcohol cannot be carried/stored in kegs or similar large containers
  • "Flashing" or displays of nudity for beads is prohibited
  • Alcoholic beverages must be consumed from a can or plastic bottle
  • No driving while under the influence
  • No weapons, motorized vehicles, or bicycles allowed
  • There will no fighting or property damage allowed
  • Trespassing on private property will not be tolerated

Open Container Violations

Most of the arrests that occur at the Gasparilla Pirate Fest are for open container violations. Parade-goers will be detained and issued citations for possessing alcohol outside of the designated area along the parade route (the “wet zone”), where the alcohol is permitted.

An open container violation is treated like a second degree misdemeanor: a conviction will lead to a fine of up to $500.

Underage Drinking Violations

Underage drinking is another common cause for arrest at the Gasparilla Pirate Fest. Florida draws a tough line when it comes to minors drinking alcohol: there are zero exceptions. According to the Florida Statutes §562.111, the possession of an alcoholic beverage by a minor is a second degree misdemeanor, with penalties of 60 days in jail and/or a monetary fine of $500, and suspension or revocation of their driver's license. For repeat offenses, this is a first-degree misdemeanor with license suspension or revocation, as well as fines and imprisonment.

BUI & Other Arrests at Gasparilla

The other crime that law enforcement will be looking for is BUI. If you are planning on taking your boat to Gasparilla, the captain should not drink any alcohol. You can be stopped for a safety check of your vessel to see if you have all of your required safety equipment.

Boating under the influence (BUI) can be charged under 46 USC 2302(c), will be considered a class A misdemeanor, and will include the possibility of a $5,000 civil penalty.

Most people we represented for these arrests had no idea that they were in violation of any law. In fact, because alcohol is sold on the parade route, most people believed that they were allowed to bring alcohol to the parade and did not know it was not allowed on the parade route. Many of the people we represented were mere feet from the parade route and were walking to or from the parade.

Gasparilla Arrests Require an Attorney’s Help

Facing a criminal charge of any kind is intimidating. Those arrested for BUI or other offenses at Gasparilla may believe they have no options and must accept whatever they’re offered in the courtroom. When a person shows up to court without the representation of an experienced attorney, they may face a prosecutor who will use the opportunity to seek the harshest punishment possible for their charges. Having an experienced Tampa Gasparilla defense lawyer will help ensure your rights are protected. We can also fight to have your charges reduced or dropped.

Call Thomas & Paulk for Skilled Counsel

Thomas & Paulk is a criminal defense firm with extensive experience defending those who are facing DUI, BUI, open container, assault, and all types of charges. As one of the premier criminal defense firms in the Tampa area, our team has the experience needed to help clients fight their charges. However, every second is important after you are charged with a crime. By contacting our firm as soon as possible, you are giving your case a crucial benefit: time. A great defense takes time to build, so we are ready to start fighting for your future immediately.

If you or someone your love has run into legal trouble while attending the events, contact our Tampa Gasparilla Festival attorneys. Give us a call today at (813) 321-7323.

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  • If you're arrested for DUI, you only have 10 days to schedule a DMV hearing where you can fight to save your license.
  • A blood alcohol reading of 0.15% or more can warrant an aggravated DUI charge with harsher penalties.
  • Each year, Hillsborough County issues around 4,000 DUI citations. Out of these, more than 3,000 are found guilty.
  • Per Florida's zero-tolerance policy, anyone under the age of 21 who tests positive for any measurable blood alcohol can be charged with DUI.