What's Really Illegal on Miami Beach? Running Down the Law on Cans, Bottles, and Straws
For those of us with any semblance of common sense, there are certain things we know we shouldn't do in public: take drugs, have sex, streak. Polite society isn't into that stuff. Though Miami Beach might seem like it's a lot more liberal than most public places, those rules still apply -- among other regulations that might not be quite so obvious. If you want to avoid the unpleasantness of citations, it's important to be educated on those pesky things called laws.
A couple of months ago on South Beach, some friends and I were cited for possession of aluminum cans -- an item we were unaware was illegal. So, to follow up, we spoke with the Miami Beach Police Department for the skinny on what you can and cannot take onto the sand. Find out what we learned after the jump.
See also: Busted on South Beach for Diet Coke
Turns out Miami Beach police and code compliance are two separate departments. They work together in some respects, but generally they each do their own thing. Which means you could be cited by one or both.
According to MBPD spokesman Sgt. Bobby Hernandez, code compliance proactively enforces beach rules year-round (by handing out citations and such), while the police actively do so only during spring break -- which lasts a whopping 12 weeks in our neck of the woods. It begins in February and ends in May, so that's the time you should be extra-cautious.
Though there are no citation quotas, the city does beef up patrol during those periods, says City of Miami Beach spokeswoman Nannette Rodriguez.
"No quotas. Our goal is compliance," she says.
As for a full rundown of what Beach officers might cite you for on the sand, Officer Hernandez referred me to the posted signage at the beachfront (see below). Yet when I mentioned receiving a citation for aluminum cans (an item not marked on the sign), he was surprised to hear about it.
In other words, you're not likely to get a soda-can citation from a police officer. But make no bones about it, metal is indeed illegal per city code.
According to Rodriguez, metal and Styrofoam are newer additions to the regulations, which is why they're not yet listed on the signage.
In addition, there's apparently a lot of confusion surrounding straws. Many people seem to think they're illegal on the beach, but Rodriguez says that's not the case. Though city-contracted concessionaires aren't allowed to provide straws, beachgoers are in the clear.
So what else should you leave at home?
According to Hernandez, going topless is perfectly legal, but anything that exposes sexual organs is not. And if there are children around, that's a felony. So think twice before going at it on the beach if there are other people anywhere around.
Also, Rodriguez mentions they actively enforce anti-littering laws. So don't leave your trash behind, and recycle when you're able. Duh.
Common sense is key, according to Hernandez. Most of the year, officers are unlikely to bother you unless you're engaged in obviously reckless or disruptive behavior.
"The only way we find out [if you have alcohol] is if you're rowdy or so obvious like holding up a bottle and the officer sees that. Once you make it out to the beach and behave yourself and don't cause any issues, there's really not any reason an officer would be going near you," he adds.
"We're looking out for beachgoers and mother nature. We're a tourist destination. We want to be tourist-friendly; we don't want to be putting a sour taste in anyone's mouth when they're visiting for the first time."
Rodriguez echoes his sentiments. "We want people to come out and enjoy our beaches and leave with a tan, not a citation."
We hope the same logic applies to locals.
So when it comes to illegality, and though the full list is more extensive than this one, these are the biggies:
What's illegal: glass, alcohol, Styrofoam, animals, metal (including aluminum cans), excessive noise, harassing sea turtles, littering
What's not: bare boobs, plastic coolers, straws
You can read up on all the city code here. It's a lot to take in.
Bottom line: Watch your back. Common sense should serve locals well for most of the year, but it's anybody's game during spring break. Thanks a lot, college douchebags.
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