Busts in the Dust

This guy seems to have the Burner spirit!

Did you know you can get arrested for riding a bike drunk at Burning Man?

from StevenGoodman:

A couple of years ago I was having a conversation with one of the BLM officers; after he (and a couple of other officers) was very helpful helping me unload my pickup truck for an art project. 

A few years earlier he had arrested someone for repeatedly running a bicycle into his squad car. The guy was so wasted (on drugs) he had no idea what he was running into, and why he could not go forward anymore. This was out in the playa near the Man, with nothing to stop the guy from just going around!

Admittedly, you have to be asking for it. Art cars seem to be another matter, as with Donna’s experience:

maybe this is Donna's eyeball?

Let me share my first Burningman experence with you. I believe it was one that doesn’t happen to many and I’m hopeful someone out there can give me some information. Maybe you saw me out there, I was driving around on the eyeball. It took much time and effort to finally get the eyeball together and Wednesday afternoon it was ready. I hopped on for a test to see how the thing would handle. I got 10 ft. out of camp and the next thing I know, the BLM Rangers were pulling me over. They asked me to blow into the breathalyzer and before I could say “What’s going on???”, I’m handcuffed. . . DUI!!! 

They dragged me to their Gerlach Station, fingerprinted me 4 (?) times, finally they dropped my off at my camp and made one of my friends sign for me. I never expected this to happen. People that witnessed this told me that it seemed excessive. They all agreed that the police seemed way out of line and was also told that some police liked to pick on women. Whatever the reason is, I’m in a pickle, they sent me a court date for the middle of October.

Part of the reality of holding an event on Federal land, is you get a combination of Federal, State, and County authorities. This means Nevada police, Highway Patrol, FBI, DEA, and of course the Bureau of Land Management rangers. Anyone of which can bust your ass.

Here is the official list of who is present during Burning Man:

  • Federal Bureau of Land Management Rangers
  • Pershing County Sheriff’s Office
  • Washoe County Sheriff’s Office
  • Nevada State Department of Investigations
  • Nevada State Health Division
  • Nevada Highway Patrol

If you plan on cooking for your camp, or offering food to strangers, you need to be aware of this:

The Nevada State Health Division seek to protect the health of our citizens and prevent food-borne epidemics. Please cooperate with their lawful inspections of all public food preparation sites at our event.

You should also be aware of the difference between two types of Rangers. Black Rock City volunteer Rangers (won’t bust you), and BLM Park Rangers (work for the Feds, not the State; will bust you, but will probably hand you over to the Nevada cops to process the bust).
Unofficially, there are also agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the FBI, and who knows who else. I mean, if you were one of those agents, and Burning Man was in your jurisdiction, and you got to drive around with night vision goggles in an air conditioned car and get paid for it, wouldn’t you go?
We also have the ACLU and Lawyers for Burners, there to represent the peepz.

Here’s some recent statistics regarding arrests and citations at Burning Man 2010 and 2009.

2010- 293 citations; 8 arrests
2009- 287 citations; 9 arrests

At last year’s Burning Man the undercovers were out in full force, going from camp to camp. A girl came up to me and asked me if I knew where to score any “molly”. I acted puzzled, then asked “oh, is that a drug thing?”. She didn’t say anything, but kinda nodded. I pointed a block down and said “see that camp over there with the big mushroom? I think that mushroom’s some kind of drug symbol, you should go ask them”. For some reason she didn’t seem very excited to be pointed in the direction of the drugs she was seeking!
  • a) do you know how old they are? and
  • b) is this a trap?
You can get busted for handing someone a joint, offering them a beer, or even making out with them – if they’re underage.
Giving illegal substances to someone could be considered drug trafficking (including marijuana). The age of consent in Nevada is 16 (18 for bisexual/homosexual acts) and if you’re over 21 then any form of sex with a minor is a felony.
Of course thousands of people gift all kinds of things at Burning Man all the time, that’s the spirit of it. Just be careful, and be aware that the place has thousands of Law Enforcement Officers and there’s always going to be at least a few of them who don’t like Burner culture. They see us as a bunch of naked druggie freaks. These are the ones more likely to be trying to bust people than just chill and have a good time, or go with the flow and enjoy themselves.
Experienced Burners learn to spot the undercovers a mile away, it’s usually in how they approach you.
Don’t think that just because Las Vegas is Sin City, the cops are easy on drugs. It is quite the opposite, and although Burning Man is in Washoe County (Reno) not Clark County (Las Vegas), the law enforcement staff for the event come from all over. The Mormons got to Nevada way before the Mafia.
In 2010 the cops were out of control, tackling people to the ground for smoking joints. Last year they seemed to have relaxed a bit, although maybe I was just hanging out with a different crowd.
Although Nevada has recognized medical marijuana since 65% of voters approved it in 2000, they do not recognize prescriptions from California doctors or anywhere else.
The medical use provisions in Nevada do not include reciprocity provisions protecting visitors from other medical use states.
According to the Burning Man Survival Guide (not legal advice, by their own admission), you could get 5 years for an ounce of weed.
Depending on the particular offense and the citing agency, the possession of marijuana may represent an infraction, a misdemeanor or a felony. Under federal law, possession of small quantities of marijuana for personal use is a misdemeanor. This can result in the issuance of a ticket that imposes a $520 fine. Nevada has very strict drug laws. Any possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor, with a bail of $250 to $650, a fine of up to $600 and possibly required participation in a drug treatment program. Possession of any other illegal drug is a felony offence with a bail in state court of $1,500 or a misdemeanor with a fine of $250. Possession of 28 to 200 grams of some controlled substances is punishable by 1 to 5 years imprisonment and a fine of not more than $50,000.
Things could also get gnarly for aliens, whether escaped from nearby Area 51 or fresh off the boat from New Zealand.
Furthermore, any immigrant or non-citizen who’s convicted of any marijuana-related charges may be deported from the U.S! Unless the charge was for simple marijuana possession in Nevada of thirty (30) grams or less of marijuana, any drug charge is a removable offense for aliens. 
Under an ounce seems like the key level – fine of $500-1200 and a drug class.
You have the right to refuse a search of your person. Cops are not supposed to be able to search your RV or tent without a warrant. But, they can go and get a  K9 unit – that means drug sniffer dog. How those things would be able to operate in an environment like Burning Man is beyond me, I’ve seen several busts go down before but I have not seen a dog.
From the Burning Man Survival Guide:
If a law enforcement representative requests to enter your home — in this case, your tent or RV — you do not have to admit them unless they have a warrant signed by a judge. Under some circumstances, however, an officer may be able to search your premises without a warrant. One exception is when the evidence of criminal activity is in plain view from a public place, such as through a window or open door. Another example is when the officer has “probable cause” to believe that a crime has been or is being committed and the situation is urgent, such as when a suspect is poised to destroy the evidence or a search is necessary to protect the public. Both sight and scent of illegal activity may be held by a court to represent probable cause. The more steps you take to make your vehicle or tent private, the more expectation of privacy you will have against an unwarranted search. On the other hand, if your tent has no walls, or your vehicle doors are always open, then your right to privacy may be diminished. Illegal behavior conducted in plain sight is subject to acts of law enforcement in Black Rock City.
The most common exception to the warrant requirement is when someone gives the police consent to be searched, whether it is a search of their car, tent, RV, or just their backpack or pockets. But you have the right not to consent to a search if the police officer asks for your permission to search, and there is nothing wrong with asserting your constitutional right and refusing to consent to a search. The police may decide to search you even without your consent. If you are searched without your consent you may have valid grounds later to challenge the legality of the search. Remember: if you give consent to a search, you cannot later successfully challenge the search and claim that it was unconstitutional.If you are arrested, the police do not need your consent to search you and the area “close by,” which usually means just the room you are in. In this case, the police may not use the arrest as an excuse to search adjacent tents or RVs where there is no evidence of criminal activity.

12 comments on “Busts in the Dust

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