During Carnival Season, the lines of social acceptability are blurred—frosted King Cake is suddenly a healthy breakfast food, “getting caught in a parade” is a legitimate reason to be late to work, and dancing is appropriate almost all the time. People in New Orleans embrace this festive time, working every year to make even wilder costumes, catch even better throws, and throw an even bigger party.

marching band in mardi gras parade

For some, Festival truly is the time of year to wonder how far you can push the line. If Mardi Gras 2019 has you wondering what will definitely get you arrested, what might get you arrested, and what is just common sense during Mardi Gras, here’s your guide!

DID YOU KNOW: Why is it called King Cake?

Mardi Gras begins on “Twelfth Night,” which is known to Christians as the “Epiphany,” the day Jesus first showed himself to the world. The baby placed inside the king cake is a symbol of this tradition.

What will definitely get you arrested during Mardi Gras?

Nearly anyone who has experienced Mardi Gras for the first time has also heard this warning: “Don’t get arrested because if you do you’re not getting out until after Fat Tuesday.” While the New Orleans Police Department has an unofficial policy of not making arrests during Mardi Gras unless they are necessary, it’s always a good idea to do everything you can to avoid being arrested.

This isn’t a complete list, but during Mardi Gras in New Orleans these things will definitely earn you a free ride in a squad car:

Nudity

Contrary to popular culture, Mardi Gras is a very family friendly tradition. We won’t speak for the blind eye that might be turned on Bourbon Street, but nudity is strictly prohibited along the parade route. The good news is all you need to do is show up to get your Mardi Gras beads, so make sure you and your friends keep your clothes on.

Non-Nudity Clothing Options

Perlis: for the preppy parade goer!

Dirty Coast: for the creative carnival clans!

Public Intoxication

You are absolutely allowed to consume alcohol in public during Mardi Gras, but you are still required to do so responsibly. If an officer determines that you might be a danger to yourself or others, you’ll be arrested and/or sent to a hospital for medical treatment.

Fighting

Look, we all know how heated things can get when a Muses throws one of those glittering shoes. But no matter what happens, fighting during Mardi Gras is strictly forbidden. If you end up in fight along the parade route it’s likely the police will take an “arrest first, ask questions after Mardi Gras” approach.

Carrying a Gun

Special ordinances prohibit carrying a firearm along the parade route. Responsible gun owners also know that carrying a gun while you’re drinking is against the law no matter where you are.

Hitting a Police Horse

It’s not unusual to want to pet a police horse when you spot one peacefully standing amidst the chaos, keeping order from above. But you have to ask first and you have to be respectful. If you hit or otherwise agitate a police horse, you will be arrested. To be safe, you should assume that the same rule applies to hitting or agitating police officers as well.

new orleans horse mounted police

What might get you arrested during Mardi Gras?

Even if you aren’t assaulting police horses while drunk in public, you should keep in mind that during New Orleans Mardi Gras police will also be enforcing all the normal laws that we follow the rest of the year. This includes rules about underage drinking, public urination, and driving under the influence. Here are a few things that might get you arrested during Mardi Gras:

Interfering with the parade

Dancing with the 610 Stompers while the parade is stopped is one thing, but dancing alongside a high school marching band as it passes by is entirely another. Likewise, you shouldn’t approach a float while the parade is moving. Not only can this get you in trouble, but you can also be hurt by massive floats that can’t stop on a dime.

Roping off your parade spot or moving someone else’s

#KreweOfChad (hashtag c/o Dirty Coast)

This might be one of the most debated points of Mardi Gras etiquette. As tempting as it might be to try to claim your spot along the route days ahead of time, in New Orleans this is discouraged. Yes, people still do it but that doesn’t make it okay. Many people don’t know that there is actually a ban on roping off spots in the public right of way.

That being said, if you find an unattended spot when you arrive to the route you also aren’t allowed to start moving things. Not only is the spot likely being watched by someone nearby, but tampering with someone else’s things is also frowned upon by law enforcement.

Once the parade gets going, personal items should be kept six feet back from the curb, including ladders. Sure people will violate this rule, but like claiming your spot ahead of time that doesn’t make it okay. Standing back allows everyone a fair shot at catching throws and it also protects people if a float jumps the curb.

mardi gras ladders for kids

Returning to a bar after you’ve been kicked out

Sometimes things just don’t work out. If you’ve been asked to leave an establishment coming back later can get you arrested. Even in a business that’s open to the public, once you’ve been told to go you will be trespassing if you return.

Carrying a glass container

Sure being “green” is trendy, so why should you have to transfer alcohol from the glass container you purchased it in to a second plastic container? It might not be the greenest option but it keeps people safe along the route. Parades get crowded, bottles get dropped, and people fall down. Removing glass from the equation isn’t just common sense, in New Orleans it’s the law.

Not respecting authority

At the end of the day, RESPECT THE AUTHORITIES. Law enforcement has a tough job during Mardi Gras. If you encounter an officer along the parade route just be respectful. Even if you’re caught breaking a law, stopping what you’re doing immediately and being courteous can go a long way in avoiding a Mardi Gras arrest.

FACT CHECK: Why did Mardi Gras start?

The history of Mardi Gras in New Orleans as we know it developed as a celebration of the indulgence and debauchery that often occurs the day before Ash Wednesday, when the sacrifices of Lent begin.

What is just plain common sense during Mardi Gras?

Even if you stay out of jail, there are a few more things you can do to make sure Mardi Gras 2019 is the best Carnival yet. Here are a few points of Mardi Gras common sense:

Never reach over someone for a throw.

Especially a kid. Seriously, just don’t do it. If a rider wants to throw you one of the “big” throws, they’ll go out of their way to make eye contact with you and signal that this throw is for you. Until that happens, raise your arms and yell “throw me something mister!” There are plenty of Mardi Gras beads to go around.

If you happen to catch something intended for someone else, hand it over. Carnival karma will reward you later.

Once Mardi Gras beads are on the ground, don’t pick them up and put them around your neck. It’s an unofficial Mardi Gras tradition that you shouldn’t wear beads that have fallen. Maybe because it’s bad luck . . . or maybe because the ground during Mardi Gras is unsanitary, and that’s putting it nicely.

Plan your routes, parking, and phone charging.

Parade routes will shut down traffic and make parking difficult. Before you head out to the parade, make a plan for how you will get there and where you will park. Unless you have a pass, vehicles are not allowed in the French Quarter during Mardi Gras weekend.

Parade tracker apps

Mardi Gras parade chaos got you down? WDSU and WWL both have fantastic phone apps with live maps and parade times.

Parking is also restricted along both sides of St. Charles, Napoleon, and many other main thoroughfares. Violations that normally would only warrant a parking ticket can get you towed during Mardi Gras, so make sure you follow parking signs for fire hydrants, handicapped spots, etc.

When you finally find a spot, drop a pin in your phone and make sure your friends know where you are and when you all plan to return. Parading can take all day, so you’ll want to bring a cell phone charger or memorize someone’s phone number in case you only get one call.

Consider your bathroom options.

There are a few public restrooms along the route but businesses will be watching intently for people trying to sneak in to use the facilities. If you want to avoid the long lines, plan to spend some money at businesses throughout the day or consider one of the organizations that offers day-long or single-use bathroom passes. Remember, public urination is illegal 365 days a year.

Were you in a Mardi Gras accident?

Although not getting arrested is very important, the number one rule of Mardi Gras is to have fun! But we know that accidents can happen anytime, even during Carnival.

If you were in injured in a Mardi Gras accident, contact us for a free case evaluation. We work on a contingency-fee basis. An experienced attorney at Morris Bart will assist you in the evaluation process. Initial consultations are free. We have office locations throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas. Call us at 1-800-537-8185 today!

February 14, 2019 | Categories: Legal Tips, Local Events |