Gasparilla Parade & Pirate Festival History

The Gasparilla Pirate Festival & Spikes in DUI 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

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 & 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.

The 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, the police has been engaging in an educational campaign. In the first year, the police visited six local schools to explain the new regulations at the festival. 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. It has been made extremely clear that the only areas where open containers will be tolerated are along the direct parade route, as well as in the Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.

Some other violations will not be tolerated at the Gasparilla Pirate Fest 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 drunken 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; and
  • 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 similarly to 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 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. This 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.

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

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DUI Defense in Florida

At Thomas & Paulk, one of our primary focuses is on the defense of DUI charges. In fact, we are recognized throughout the Tampa area as one of the premier DUI defense law firms. Our team is well-versed in this area of the law and has a wide-expanse of experience in helping our clients fight against such charges.

It doesn’t matter if this is your first offense or your third, you can count on our firm to protect your legal rights. Often, our defense starts with recounting with you how the police officer came to stop you in the first place and how he or she came to believe you may be under the influence of alcohol. If the stop was illegal, or the tests were improperly administered, we may be able to argue for the dismissal of that evidence in court, helping your chances of a dropped charge.

If you would like to learn more about how our team can help, call now.

  • 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.

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