The theme of New Orleans’ world-famous Mardi Gras celebration may be “farewell to the flesh,” but given the nonstop booze-fueled revelry and overall air of overindulgence, visitors who push the party too far may well end up saying, “hello to the cuffs.”
The New Orleans Police Department prides itself on its record of keeping Mardi Gras safe while not excessively inhibiting the entire city’s outrageously great time.
That stated, it’s important to point out the “almost” element of Mardi Gras’ spirit of “almost anything goes.”
If you flagrantly break the law or endanger others, you can and will get popped by the cops — especially in the French Quarter and most especially along the big parade route.
New Orleans criminal attorney Craig Mordock has put together a handy list of the five most common ways that Mardi Gras merrymakers go from beer and beads to being behind bars and in need of bail.
1. PUBLIC DRUG USE
While NOLA’s streets practically flow with alcohol during Mardi Gras, illegal intoxicants remain just that: illegal. And despite the city’s libertine flair, for now the list of forbidden substances still does very much include marijuana. It’s an easy arrest and, as Mordock says, “[A police officer’s] testimony, ‘I saw you smoking a joint on the parade route’ is enough to convict you.”
2. PUBLIC URINATION
Given the tidal waves of consumable liquids and the often impenetrable number of people between a desperate imbiber and a restroom in the back of a bar all the way across the street, it’s inevitable that some celebrants will simply drop trou and let fly. It’s also a crime. Mordock points out, “Two years ago a defendant was sentenced to five days in Orleans Parish Prison for public urination. Don’t be that guy.”
3. PUBLIC NUDITY
Yes, “boobs for beads” is as much a Mardi Gras tradition as jazz, beignets, and hangovers. However, male nudity for beads — or for any reason — is an absolute no-go. And, as much as girls will be girls gone wild throughout the festival, even female nakedness is entirely forbidden along the uptown parade route. Mordock advises, “If you are going to flash, be ready to dash!”
Each year, NOLA’s finest manage a seemingly impossible mass of liquor-hammered humans having the time of their lives with a stunningly minimal amount of serious unpleasantness, let alone violence and tragedy. Mordock makes what to do clear, stating: “If a cop tells you to do something during Mardi Gras, he is trying to make your life easy. You may not understand his reasoning. Whatever. Just do what he says…. When a police officer says, ‘move along,’ do it.”
5. ATTEMPTING TO JUMP ON A PARADE FLOAT
Many ideas that seem like they’ll be zany fun when you’re drunk are actually idiotic and hugely dangerous, and you’d never do them if you were sober. Trying to leap up on a Mardi Gras parade float ranks high among that list. So just … don’t. According to Mordock, “Yes, people do this. Yes, they go to jail. Yes, they are convicted. Yes, they get relatively long sentences.”
Main photo: Pixabay