The court's judges generally show compassion for first offenders. Not wishing to give young adults criminal records, they generally dispense fines and orders for community service and probation. For defendants with criminal records, however, the judges don't hesitate to impose jail terms.
The average law-breaker here is a white male between the ages of 16 and 25, says Pfc. Barry L. Neeb, a spokesman for the Ocean City Police Department. And more times than not, the individual has consumed alcohol, drugs or both.
"A lot of time it's the first time these people have been on their own," said Private Neeb. "They're experiencing new-found freedom."
Serious crimes such as murder, rape and drug dealing are handled by the Ocean City Police Department's full-time staff of 89. Those cases usually end up in Circuit Court half-an-hour away in Snow Hill, the county seat.
But the majority of offenses -- the misdemeanors and traffic cases -- become the duty of the resort's 100 seasonal officers, who are usually young and eager for a taste of law enforcement but inexperienced.
The summer officers make mistakes in court, admitted Judge Bloxom. "It certainly presents opportunities for defense lawyers," said.
"By and large, the summer police officers do a good job, and a town like Ocean City really doesn't have much choice."
Some cases dropped
A recurring problem for Mr. Mumford is getting witnesses and complainants to show up. Because many live in Baltimore or Washington or outside Maryland, returning for a trial that may last 15 minutes is a hardship.
"I have to drop a lot of cases because of that," he said.
One of the most common -- and baffling -- law violations in Ocean City is young men urinating in public.
"There are plenty of comfort stations on the Boardwalk," said Judge Bloxom, "but people come here and start drinking, and I guess their inhibitions are relaxed."
In one such case a few years ago, an intoxicated young man was arrested for using a police cruiser as his target. He showed up in court apologetic, asking for leniency. He received probation before judgment, but was ordered to do community service.
"We had him washing police cars that summer," said Private Neeb. "There's a distinction between law and justice -- and sometimes justice prevails."