The Shark Shotgun and Other Terrible IdeasWhen you think of Spring Break crimes, you probably think of DUIs or getting caught with weed, maybe a little public nudity – right? I’ve worked with some young adults who have gotten in a little over their heads before during vacations, and most of the time it’s those kinds of charges. After all these years helping people (Spring Breakers or not), I have to tell you, there’s very little that surprises me.

Shotgunning beer with a shark, though? That one surprised me.

According to a piece in the Huffington Post, a blog called Total Frat Move started an Instagram account dedicated to Spring Break. Someone posted a clip of two guys: one is holding the mouth of a shark open, and the other uses the shark’s teeth to puncture a can of beer. There’s a fishing line hanging out of the shark, so I assume it’s dead, but there’s no way to be sure. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a clip of some fool running around holding a seagull, and another dope pouring his drink into a starfish, and then drinking it out of the leg, as some girls laugh and egg him on in the background.

Maryland’s animal cruelty laws

Here’s the thing: as a criminal defense lawyer, I’ve helped a lot of people out of a lot of bad situations. Sometimes they’re people who’ve made honest mistakes; sometimes they’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes they admit they’ve done something wrong or broken a law – they just weren’t thinking that the consequences could be so severe for other people. And I pride myself on being a pretty non-judgmental guy, at heart. Everybody makes mistakes.

But as an animal lover? There’s no mistake about what’s happening here. Plucking a live animal out of the water to drink liquor out of him? That’s not funny: it’s animal abuse. Maryland has some pretty strict laws when it comes to animal cruelty, which is defined as “the unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain or suffering caused or allowed by an act, omission, or neglect” of any living creature that isn’t human. That includes torture and torment, too. So if that shark or that starfish was alive when these videos were taken, as the gull clearly was, the people in these videos could have:

  • Been charged with the felony crime of aggravated cruelty to animals, faced up to three years in prison, and saw fines up to $5000.00 per animal, or
  • Been charged with the misdemeanor crime of abuse or neglect of an animal, faced up to 90 days in jail, and saw fines of up to $1000 per animal.

I like a good laugh as much as the next guy, but please: let me give you a bit of life advice here. Just leave the animals alone. It may seem like a dumb prank to you or your friends, but it’s unfair to involve creatures that can’t say “no” or get away.

The laws are strict for a reason. Live and let live.

My name is Drew Cochran, and I’m a criminal defense lawyer in Annapolis. If you have been charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, I may be able to help. You can contact the law office Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law by calling 410.777.8103, or filling out this contact form. You don’t have to be alone.

And if you’re feeling like the world is coming to an end, don’t panic: just Keep Calm – and Call Drew.