Mardi Gras in New Orleans is here once again. Although this is a time for festivities and fun, it is also important to remember that we still live in a civilized world with rules and laws that are in place to protect our community’s safety. As a criminal defense lawyer with years of experience helping people in the New Orleans Municipal and Traffic Court, I have seen it all! This is the time to pay attention to the Do’s & Don’ts of Mardi Gras by following some simple guidelines. Doing so will ensure that you are safe, your family is safe, and you stay out of trouble and jail.
What are the Mardi Gras Laws and Rules in New Orleans?
Do not throw anything at the floats or parade participants. Despite what you might think, it is illegal to throw anything, including beads, at a float or someone riding or walking in a parade. This is highly dangerous and illegal. You cannot throw any other objects at any parades. The only exception would be at the end of the large parades, there might be one “float” shaped like a bin so you can throw your beads back so they can be recycled. This is the only exception.
Do not get naked. It sounds like an easy law, but this includes, but is not limited to: women, lifting your shirt is getting naked, and illegal. Urinating in public is getting naked, and illegal. Taking your clothes off to jump in the lake or river is getting naked, and illegal. And stupid. Don’t take your clothes off, and you won’t have a problem.
- Women flashing on Bourbon Street is getting naked, and illegal, but the cops usually overlook this.
- Men flashing on Bourbon Street is getting naked, and illegal. The cops don’t overlook this rule. Sorry, gentlemen.
Do not bring a firearm to a parade. This is for your safety and the safety of everyone around you, and is illegal unless you are in law enforcement. With the number of people out in the crowds, and the mix of people out and about, having a gun, whether it is for your safety or to commit a crime, is illegal, not recommended, and also stupid.
- As a special note, it is illegal to bring a gun for a parade route even if you have a concealed weapons permit (CWP). Similarly, it is illegal to carry a gun concealed without a CWP in Louisiana.
Do not do drugs. Drugs are illegal and therefore, this should be pretty self-explanatory. Drugs are still illegal at Mardi Gras. There are many minor narcotic violations and also many undercover or street-clothes cops during Mardi Gras.
- Small amounts/personal use of marijuana is still illegal in Louisiana.
If you are under the age of 21, do not smoke, it is illegal (now). Recent federal law INCREASED the legal smoking age to 21. I anticipate local, state, and federal law enforcement will be out writing people summons for smoking underage.
- Note: As of January 30, 2020, the current version of the New Orleans Municipal Code and the Louisiana Criminal Code still permit smoking at age 18. As your New Orleans Criminal Defense Lawyer, I advise you against smoking if you are under 21.
Do not rope off or fence any stake of public property. If you are on the neutral ground, you cannot use yellow caution tape to claim your territory. Law enforcement will tell you to take it down.
What Should You Do at Mardi Gras Parades in New Orleans?
Cooperate with law enforcement. Okay, so you’ve had one too many. That’s not a crime. You might even be visibly drunk to some people. You might also be visibly drunk to a police officer. In this case, if you are approached by law enforcement, do cooperate and do as you’re told. It doesn’t mean that you are or are not going to get arrested, but listening to the police and cooperating with their requests will lower your chances of getting arrested.
Be respectful of other people. This should be a common sense, no-brainer, but it is harder to remember when you are packed in like sardines. Everyone is at Mardi Gras to have a good time. Do not ruin someone else’s good time because you didn’t catch a shoe, or you have to walk a few more blocks to get a good spot. Respect privacy, belongings, and just general space.
Call law enforcement if something doesn’t seem right. If you see any suspicious activity, immediately find your local law enforcer. Do not handle the situation yourself. If you do not feel comfortable telling law enforcement, okay. But, do not handle the situation yourself. You do not know what kind of a mess you can find yourself in. Let the professionals handle the job.
Other Violations to Remember During Mardi Gras
Public drunkenness can only be tolerated until you violate another person’s space or act offensively. Pay your bartender, pay your cab/Uber/Lyft drivers, and pay the waitress for your bill. Do not park in handicapped zones, too close to a fire hydrant, or too close to an intersection. Do not drive drunk. Do not bang on cars or taxis crossing Bourbon Street. Do not fight. Do not touch the NOPD horses without permission of the mounted officers
What happens if I Get Arrested at Mardi Gras in New Orleans?
Even though the laws seem easy to follow, unfortunately Mardi Gras is synonymous with alcohol, and therefore it is possible you or someone you know might “forget” the laws. If you find yourself arrested during Mardi Gras, remember you have rights as an individual.
Do not resist arrest.
If you are asked your name, address, and photo ID, you must provide it, but you do not have to provide any additional information. If you get arrested, tell the officers you want to speak to a lawyer. You may be carted off to Central Lockup, in which case you will be handcuffed, photographed and finger-printed. You can use your phone call to call a lawyer, friend or family member. You may be permitted to withdraw money from the ATM in jail to make your bail. If you or someone you know is in need of help during or after Mardi Gras, please don’t hesitate to contact me contact me by phone (504) 264-9492.