Spring Break Court has been somewhat of an urban legend, absent from Bay County since 1999. Now a new wave of leaders is bringing back the alternative for naughty party goers.
In a matter of weeks, the court will be up and running out of a Panama City Beach hotel. Officials are giving spring break court another shot in hopes of easing the burden on everyone.
The presence of spring break means a lot of things for Bay County; more money, more partying and more crime. "We see about a 50-75 percent in about a 2 to 2.5 month period which falls primarily on the court system," Greg Wilson, Chief Assistant State Attorney said.
Wilson says he and others were approached by Judge Joe Grammer about a year ago. Slammed with cases that never got resolved, the court revisited the idea of spring break court. Wilson said, "Every year we kind of reevaluate and assess spring break. See what happened the year before. See if there is a way to improve things."
Since 1999, Spring Break Court was non-existent. Officials did away with it because it became costly for taxpayers. Panama City Beach Police Chief Drew Whitman weighed in on the issue, "If the kids didn't show up to court that morning, we had to send law enforcement out to the motels that were given to us. Knocking on doors, trying to get them to show up to court."
Once they did show up, Whitman says community service became more of a baby sitting hour. "So it was just too hard on the city and I think it was a waste of taxpayer's money," said Whitman.
Now, Spring Break Court is completely voluntary and open to anyone. For three weeks a judge and his staff, along with the state attorney and public defenders office, will gather to hear pleas and conduct pre-trial interventions. "We may have no body show for it because it is not mandatory. If they don't they go to the regular court date or it may be everybody that was cited so we don't know what to expect. We are just going to prepare for having every body and see how it goes," said Wilson.
Tuesday morning the Bay County Commission also took strides to control spring break. The board amended an existing ordinance to prohibit the consumption of alcohol on public right of ways. Throughout the past year, the County mirrored its ordinances to those of the City to help ease the work on law enforcement.
The preliminary dates are March 7-11, March 14-18 and March 21-25 at the Mayestic Beach Resort.