With a pirate invasion heading our way, there should be a lot of high spirits heading into the weekend. However, when regarding such a large scale function as Gasparilla, attendees need to be conscious about the risks and prevention methods of keeping you and your loved ones safe. Since 1905, Gasparilla Pirate Fest has been one of the most popular attractions in Tampa. Last year, over 300,000 spectators lined the streets to watch the Children’s Gasparilla Extravaganza and the Gasparilla Pirates Fest the following week.
Tampa Police Department (TPD) used to arrest between 200 and 400 people each Gasparilla on alcohol-related charges. Now, due to the probability of people drinking with open containers and walking around, the city has designated “wet” areas for people to consume alcohol without arrest (the parade route). However, if you step outside the acceptable areas expect at the very least, civil citations for violating the open container law which includes a fine of $75-$450. In 2012 alone, TPD issued 302 open container violation civil citations, arrested 8 individuals for driving under the influence and 27 underage drinking individuals. In effect, TPD’s policy for this event is zero tolerance when it pertains to alcoholic beverage laws and related enforcement aspects. TPD also has warned that the Federal Aviation Administration safety guidelines prohibit the use of drones above large gatherings of people, such as the Gasparilla parade .
DUIs/BUIs & Underage Drinking
It’s simple, if you are underage, do not drink. Coincidentally, it is known that it’ll happen anyway. Regardless, the cops will be out to make sure that everyone is legally drinking. More than 21 law enforcement agencies will be out in full force providing security at the parades, officials said. As such, Tampa Police officers will not be allowed to take off, with everyone expected to report for duty.
Police Chief Eric Ward said officials are mindful of the recent terrorist attacks in San Bernadino and Paris, but are aware of no specific threats that would disrupt Gasparilla, Still, he said, law enforcement always prepares for the worst and that includes DUI checkpoints and BUI checkpoints among other policies to be inflicted such as the prevention of using drones.
Last year, there were 150 open container citations, 1 underage drinking violation, 8 felonies and 15 other arrests that were not specifically mentioned. And while last year, there seems to be no BUIs, previous years have accounted for an average of 5 arrests due to boating under the influence. Individuals are allowed in the area with their boats within a given set of parameters. Anyone who is too close to the pirate’s ship will be cited for a probable BUI. All other boats are subject to TPD’s discretion.
Coast Guard Commander Greg Case said that special measures will be in place to ensure boating safety during the invasion, and he asked boaters to take preventative measures and report if they see anything of concern. “Alcohol is a leading contributing factor in boating fatalities,” Case said. “You can be sure that we’ll have a strong presence on the water enforcing those laws.” As such, there will be special safety regulations in effect from 9am to 6pm on January 30th for the boat procession into Tampa. Those rules will include a no-wake zone, some areas of the port closed and a ban on jet skis, kayaks, paddle boards and other watercraft without mechanical propulsion on the parade route .
With the anticipation of many adults drinking alcohol, there will be a heightened possibility of a DUI. DUIs in a large scale celebration have a higher chance of hitting a pedestrian or group of pedestrians rather than another vehicle. While local enforcement and driving services will provide ways to prevent fatal situations such as increased police in designated areas, traffic stops for drunk drivers, the blockage of heavily crowded streets, effective transportation including more buses and hours and taxi services, the amount of people compared to the amount of enforcement active can lead to an accident. Therefore, it is essential for pedestrians to be fully aware of their surroundings and when they are crossing the street.
Some (20) other tips to consider before your Gasparilla adventure begins includes:
- The legal drinking age is 21
- The wet area, along with other designated areas are the only permitted open container areas.
- Alcohol may not be consumed from kegs or large vessels
- You must purchase alcohol from vendors.
- With respect to open containers, only cans or plastic bottles are allowed; no glass or Styrofoam cups.
- No public urination
- No fighting
- No property damage
- No coolers
- No trespassing
- No nudity or flashing
- No public intoxication
- No motorized vehicles or bicycles
- No weapons
- No illegal drugs
- Eat before you start drinking
- Drink water
- Have a DD or call an Uber/Taxi
- Have fun! 
Dolman Law Group
Gasparilla has become a local pride and joy as well as a landmark event that unites the tri-city area. Remembering the tips before going out to join your other pirate mates will prevent pedestrian accidents, DUIs and any other accident that could stem from the pirate parade. However, in the event that something does occur, call your local and experienced personal injury lawyers to handle your claim.
Unfortunately, many people will be drinking and inevitably not all will be safe and smart. Some may go behind the wheel or a car or boat, causing a safety threat to not only themselves but also everyone else around them. If you or a loved one has sustained injuries by walking on the road or any other community activity at the festival, please call the personal injury attorneys at Dolman Law Group at (727) 451-6900 today.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765