Weatherford Democrat

Online Only

March 30, 2013

'Spring Break Court' gives kids, cops a break

For police departments in southern coastal regions, spring break is a hellish month's worth of property damage, Red Dog vomit, and belligerent teenagers yelling. But it's equally bad for courts, which see their dockets overflow with minor cases that end up being very difficult to resolve, largely because the defendants find it more expedient to flee the state than to face the charges against them. So what's the solution? Let lawlessness reign? Assign more cops to the Señor Frog's detail? Deputize a bunch of back-talking bounty hunters to hunt down open-container scofflaws and bring them to justice?

For Panama City Beach, the answer is Spring Break Court, a concept that will surely become an A&E reality show. This year, Judge Joe Grammer ran a month-long pop-up courtroom on the fourth floor of the Majestic Beach Resort, where he gave spring breakers accused of minor offenses the chance to resolve their cases quickly. The defendants were given three options: plead guilty; plead not guilty and have the case moved over to a real courthouse; or enter the State Attorney's Diversion Program, complete some community service, and have the charges dropped. As S. Brady Calhoun reports in his fantastic article for the Panama City News Herald, every single participant chose to enter the Diverson Program.

This is a great example of a smart solution to a small but persistent problem. Spring-break crime might seem inconsequential, but it's a big strain on local justice systems. As an assistant state's attorney told WMBB-TV, "We see about a 50-75 percent [crime increase] in about a 2 to 2.5 month period which falls primarily on the court system." It costs money to try all these cases and to track down vanished defendants. I applaud Grammer and his colleagues for taking an imaginative approach to clearing a bunch of cases all at once.

Text Only
Online Only
  • The case for separate beds

    The other night I slept on a twin bed in the guest room of the house I share with my husband and our two kids.
    It was the best night's sleep I've had in years.

    April 17, 2014

  • VIDEO: Boston bomb scare defendant appears in court

    The man accused of carrying a backpack containing a rice cooker near the Boston Marathon finish line on the anniversary of the bombings was arraigned Wednesday. He's being held on $100,000 bail.

    April 17, 2014

  • To sleep well, you may need to adjust what you eat and when

    Sleep.  Oh, to sleep.  A good night's sleep is often a struggle for more than half of American adults.  And for occasional insomnia, there are good reasons to avoid using medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription.

    April 16, 2014

  • Doctors to rate cost effectiveness of expensive cancer drugs

    The world's largest organization of cancer doctors plans to rate the cost effectiveness of expensive oncology drugs, and will urge physicians to use the ratings to discuss the costs with their patients.

    April 16, 2014

  • portraitoflotte.jpg VIDEO: From infant to teen in four minutes

    Dutch filmmaker Frans Hofmeester’s time lapse video of his daughter, Lotte — created by filming her every week from her birth until she turned 14 — has become a viral sensation.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 12.51.22 PM.png VIDEO: Toddler climbs into vending machine

    A child is safe after climbing into and getting stuck inside a claw crane machine at a Lincoln, Neb., bowling alley Monday.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Victimized by the 'marriage penalty'

    In a few short months, I'll pass the milestone that every little girl dreams of: the day she swears - before family and God, in sickness and in health, all in the name of love - that she's willing to pay a much higher tax rate.

    April 15, 2014

  • E-Cigarettes target youth with festivals, lawmakers say

    The findings, in a survey released Monday by members of Congress, should prod U.S. regulators to curb the industry, the lawmakers said. While e-cigarettes currently are unregulated, the Food and Drug Administration is working on a plan that would extend its tobacco oversight to the products.

    April 15, 2014

  • bomb1 VIDEO: A year after marathon bombing, Boston remains strong

    The City of Boston came together Tuesday to honor those who were injured and lost their lives at the Boston Marathon on the one-year anniversary of the bombing. While the day was sure to be emotional, those affected by last year's race are showing they won't let the tragedy keep them down.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 4.02.29 PM.png VIDEO: Nebraska prom mishap goes viral

    A group of 22 high school students from Pierce, Neb., all decked out in prom finery, took an unplanned dip in a four-foot-deep pond when the bridge they were posing on for pictures gave way. Photos from the incident have gone viral on social media.

    April 12, 2014 1 Photo

Must Read
Top News
House Ads
AP Video
Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez Dead at 87 Chelsea Clinton Is Pregnant Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction Crew Criticized Over Handling of Ferry Disaster Agreement Reached to Calm Ukraine Tensions Boston Bombing Survivors One Year Later