A Pinellas county woman was arrested on Nov. 24th for riding a manatee in Ft. De Soto Park in September 2012.
The woman was photographed by witnesses on Sept. 30th, as she climbed on the back of the manatee and lay on it like a boogie board. Some witnesses said she was disrupting a mating ritual, according to a report by the Fox News affiliate in Miami.
After witnesses came forward with photographs, the Pinellas county sherriff's office enlisted the help of local tv news outlets to help identify the woman in the photographs.
A few days later, on October 2nd, 53-year-old Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez called the Sheriff’s Office Communications Center to turn herself in.
According to a news release by the Pinellas County Sherriff's Office, "Gutierrez admitted to the offense claiming she is new to the area and did not realize it was against the law to touch or harass manatees."
Deputies met with Gutierrez at her residence and questioned her regarding the reported events. Gutierrez admitted to the offense claiming she is new to the area and did not realize it was against the law to touch or harass manatees. Deputies further explained the law regarding manatees and the possible penalties for violating such laws.
Deputies concluded their contact with Gutierrez and explained to her that charges would be forwarded to the State Attorney’s Office for prosecution.
Due to the nature of the crime this was not an arrestable offense because it did not occur in the deputy’s presence.
The warrant for her arrest was issued almost two months later, because the Sherriff's Office was waiting to hear from the State Attorneys Office whether or not they could arrest her without having witnessed the incident themselves.
The SAO issued an arrest warrant and the warrant was served at about 9:22 a.m. on November 24, 2012. Deputies located Garcia-Gutierrez at her place of employment; and arrested her without further incident.
Gutierrez was arrested for violation of the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, a second degree misdemeanor. She faces a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Gutierrez was released Saturday from the Pinellas County Jail on $1,500 bail.
It is important to be aware that the laws protecting manatees are quite strict, and "declares it unlawful for any person at any time, by any means, or in any manner to intentionally or negligently annoy, molest, harass, or disturb or attempt to molest, harass, or disturb any manatee; injure or harm or attempt to injure or harm any manatee; capture or collect or attempt to capture or collect any manatee; pursue, hunt, wound, or kill or attempt to pursue, hunt, wound, or kill any manatee; or possess, literally or constructively, any manatee or any part of any manatee."