Spring Break Visitors Catch a Break

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While spring breakers come to Panama City Beach for a variety of reasons, not many tend to make the trip hoping to come back with a criminal record. Local authorities have reinstated Spring Break Court this year and the first session will take place Thursday.

Rather than dragging visitors back to town for misdemeanor violations, spring break court allows them to pay their debt to society now, and forget it. The other advantage, it saves the county a lot of money.

"We've set up temporary spring break court at the Majestic [Beach Resort], they're gonna house it for us, the kids - it's optional we're gonna give them a form, something like this just explain to them what's going on, it's not mandatory," said Panama City Beach Police Chief Drew Whitman.

Spring break court allows any resident or visitor to address their misdemeanor or criminal traffic charges. It includes things like alcohol violations, fake IDs, invalid driver's licenses and car tags, and indecent exposure.

"The diversion program offers the defendant the opportunity take care of the charges by taking a class, doing community service work, paying a fine" said Chief Assistant State Attorney, Greg Wilson, "once they complete that, we dismiss the charges."

Spring breakers are generally sentences to community service, like picking up trash. Once they've fulfilled that sentence, they can leave Bay County with a clean record.

Those that don't take advantage of spring break court could be in for a unpleasant surprise in the future.

"Some of these kids go back home and think well that's in Florida it's never gonna effect me," said Whitman, "5 years later they get out of college and apply for a job and there's a warrant on their record. It could hurt their career."

Spring break court will convene each Thursday through Monday afternoon from 2 pm to 4 pm through the end of March.