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Guide to local Miami law and etiquette

Tips and information on local Miami law and common rules of etiquette to help you stay out of trouble in Vice City

Written by
Time Out Miami editors


Miami’s fun-in-the-sun ethos doesn’t extend to the drug laws, which are enforced with the same rigor as anywhere else in the US. Those convicted of possessing any controlled substance face penalties of up to a year in prison and fines ranging from $1,000 to $100,000. Those found in possession of crack cocaine face from five to 20 years in prison. Stick to mojitos.


Following similar action by other states, in 2003 Florida adopted legislation that essentially banned smoking indoors in airports, offices, hotel lobbies, restaurants and bars. The exception to the rule: smoking is allowed in standalone bars, designated hotel rooms and select outdoor seating areas in restaurants.


Tipping is standard practice. In fact, many restaurants add the tip on to the bill before you get it; always check unless for some reason you want to tip twice. If the bill doesn’t already contain a tip, add 15–20 per cent in restaurants.

Bartenders and food delivery workers should get a tip of 15 per cent. Cloakroom attendants, doormen and the like should be tipped a dollar or so. Bellhops and baggage attendants merit $1–$2 a bag, while hotel maids should be left $1–$2 per night. Cab drivers, too, expect to be tipped 15 per cent, plus $1 per bag. Foreign visitors should note, that, almost without exception, staff in the service industries in the US are paid next to nothing as a basic wage, and rely heavily on gratuities. In other words, they feel they’ve got a genuine gripe if you don’t cough up—and they’re likely to let you know about it.


If you want to drink, carry photo ID with your date of birth (driving licence or passport), no matter how old you are.

Age restrictions

Buying/drinking alcohol 21

Police and legal help

Most Florida police officers are tourist-friendly. However, if you’re challenged by a police officer, be sure to do exactly as you’re told and don’t make any sudden movements. If you find yourself arrested and accused of a serious crime, you’ll be permitted one phone call, in which case your best bet is to call your consulate. If you don’t have a lawyer or can’t afford one, the court will appoint one for you. Otherwise, you can call the Florida Bar Association (850-561-5600) for a referral.

For emergencies, the police can be reached on 911. The numbers given below are non-emerhemcy numbers.

Coral Gables Police Dept
2801 Salzedo St, at Sevilla Ave, Coral Gables (305-442-1600). Bus 24, 72. Open 24hrs daily.

Miami Beach Police Dept
1100 Washington Ave, at 11th St, South Beach (305-673-7900). Bus C, H, K, W, South Beach Local. Open 24hrs daily.

Miami Police Dept
400 NW 2nd Ave, at NW 4th St, Downtown (305-603-6640). Metromover Government Center. Open 24hrs daily.

North Miami Beach
Police Dept 16901 NE 19th Ave, at NE 169th St, North Miami Beach (305-662-7654). Bus E, H, V. Open 24hrs daily.

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