How to stay out of trouble on spring break
Thomas E. Betz is the director of University of Illinois Student Legal Service on its Urbana-Champaign campus -- and answers lots of questions from students about spring break.
It is that time of year again when college students seek warmer climates. There are at least four "S words" to describe the purpose of Spring Break: Sun, Sand, Sex and Surf. I would like to add one more... SAFETY.
Most students have a great time wherever they go to escape the cold of Illinois and the cooped-up conditions of their dorm or apartment. But every year we learn about tragedies, emergencies and injuries suffered by spring breakers. A few commonsense precautions can prevent most problems.
They are just toy cops, they won't arrest a student just having fun.....WRONG
The cops in spring break towns are not like department store security. They are real cops. The police on college campuses and surrounding communities are real. The cops in South Padre, Cancun and Hilton Head are just as real and will enforce drug, assault and battery, and public intoxication laws.
All of them arrest students on a regular basis, thus providing attorneys at student legal service offices a decent level of job security.
Every year I receive calls from students in various jails because of something they allegedly did while having too good of a time in the sun. Attorneys in Mexico -- and the U.S. -- are very expensive, and may cause your parents to have to take out a second mortgage on the family house to get you out of jail.
Traveling to Mexico
Marijuana is not legal in Mexico, despite what you may have been told. Just like when you are in the U.S., when you purchase drugs in Mexico you may very well be buying from an undercover agent. Spring breakers are easy targets for NARCs, as well as real dealers who can be violent.
Also, don't leave your resort area and go off alone exploring greater Mexico on a sightseeing adventure. Alone equals danger.
Too much alcohol and too little sense
We know students drink on campus both legally and illegally. This has likely been true since colleges were first established. There are many students who do not binge drink or suffer from alcohol poisoning while on campus -- but the milieu of Panama City Beach all too easily causes many to drink far more than they ever would at the campus bars.
Most spring break destinations try to provide no-drinking activities such as contests and music. But many tragedies of date rape still take place. Sadly, both the male and female may be too intoxicated to meaningfully know what happened. But the possibility of STDs and the emotional trauma is still very real. Rape is a felony in every spring break town and WILL be vigorously prosecuted. Being drunk is rarely, if ever, a valid defense to rape.
I can fly! Watch me glide off the 6th floor balcony...
I sound like somebody's dad preaching... Well, I am. And I certainly know that alcohol alone -- and even more so in combination with other substances -- can lead to extreme overconfidence. Every year intoxicated students jump, fly and fall off of spring break balconies. If you cannot glide like an eagle while sober, it is fairly likely that you will not soar much better while drunk. This goes for swimming, too. You do not want to drown or become shark bait.
While you are in the sun, the crooks are at your apartment
The burglars and thieves of college communities are keenly aware that spring break is coming up. They can hardly wait. Your apartment is their treasure trove. Your community may seem safe, but any burglar will happily enter your apartment if you leave the door unlocked. Lock the windows and doors.
Make sure you have renter's insurance. Your landlord is NOT the insurer of your personal property. Take your most valuable items back home.
Do NOT turn off the heat. It is not too late for deep freeze weather (after all that is why you are heading south). Pipes can and do freeze in March and your apartment can be a flooded mess when you return.
Don't be scared, be prepared!
Most students have a safe and wonderful time on spring break as long as they use common sense. This dad's final piece of advice: "If you wouldn't do it on campus, you shouldn't do it on spring break... Well, most of the time."
March 16, 2010; 2:00 PM ET
Categories: Spring Break | Tags: Spring Break, University of Illinois
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