2013: Let’s Be Careful Out There!

This is a repost of something we wrote before last year’s Burn. Has anything changed since then? Well, we’ve had a big K9 bust of what seemed to be some relatively sizeable dealers. We heard about other, bigger ones, but don’t have enough confirmed evidence to write about it. A teenage girl went missing, shutting down the entire city so no-one could leave – luckily, she was found later. We had a high profile rape, also of an underage girl. In addition, politically in the last year we’ve had Burning Man suing local law enforcement, going around them to the State legislature and Capitol Hill, with the outcome seeming like they’ve been put in their place with wowser teetotaller Burner-hating Pershing County now seeming to be quite firmly in control and with a budget shortfall. We have Burning Man people taking on wealthy and powerful Wild West locals, with first a lawsuit, and then a strange luxury houseboat sinking. And just recently, we also have a mysterious death on our hands from the local area, involving a director of one of the Burning Man nebula of companies.

Does all this mean the cops this year are going to be much nicer to Burners, than in the past? Maybe the local judge and sheriff love losing lawsuits, and not getting the money they put their hands out for. Maybe their attitude will be “it’s no big deal, we tried and we lost, since we work in the justice system, let’s change our minds and be positive towards anyone from this party that sued us”. Or maybe their attitude could be “we lost, we didn’t get the money, so we’re gonna make it back in fines“. Or maybe, they could be petty and vindictive: “they sued us, so now we’re going to punish them as hard as we can”. Make your own judgement. Of course, justice is blind, and there is no such thing as corruption, bias, or opinion. “The law says you’re not allowed to have corruption!”

I know that you Burners are conscientious and would never dream of breaking the law, but discretion is the better part of valor. California marijuana prescriptions are not recognized in Nevada, and being caught with ANY type of drugs in a moving vehicle is considered to be felony narcotics trafficking out there. Just sayin’…


Inspired by Papa Swan’s brilliant idea, here’s some advice from Burners.Me, to the “new-bees” and veteran Burners alike. Make sure you read the official Burning Man guide to dealing with Law Enforcement at Burning Man.

The BLM, DEA, NDI, FBI, and all kinds of other bored agents have been running stings with underage snitches spies trying to bust Burners – serving alcohol, smoking pot, serving food without a permit, public indecency (nudity is fine, but sexual acts are not), taking a dump, DUI, speeding (remember the speed limit on the Playa is “parade speed”, or 5 mph)… you name it. Don’t think that because you left the public road and drove onto this sandy Playa, you can’t get snapped for DUI. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen people tackled by 4 cops for popping a prescribed pill, or for smoking a joint; I’ve seen quad bikes chasing people, I’ve seen dogs going into people’s tents. They have serious infrared night vision goggles – the latest and greatest. The BLM gets millions of dollars every year out of Burning Man, it’s not like they’re driving around in a crapped out old Crown Royale. Hi-resolution satellite imagery of Burning Man is freely published to us on the Internet – think about that. Who knows what techonologies are they experimenting with that they’re not sharing with everyone? At this year’s JuPlaya, Android phones worked great, iPhones were so-so. Google Maps has all the streets clearly marked out with GPS co-ordinates.

We would recommend that any Burners thinking they’re about to get lucky with a young hottie, check their mugID first – Nevada’s age of consent is 16 for straight and 18 for bi/gay sex.

The worst thing about Nevada’s “statutory sexual seduction” law is that in most cases the Court will order the convicted perpetrator to be listed on the Sex Offenders Registry, for “any kind of penetration” – including digital and oral – regardless of whether or not it’s consensual. Ignorance is no excuse in the eyes of the law, and neither is consent or “she lied about her age”. If you’re over 21 then they’ll throw the book at you for being a pedophile.

And I don’t want to be a party pooper, but be safe people! Beware of Burning ClamUnprotected sex with strangers in an environment like that is just plain stupid. Get that jimmy hat on, check their ID, and chiggady-check yo’self before yo wriggady-wreck yo’self! 

The fine for serving alcohol to a minor is $1100+ – not to mention that getting caught committing any kind of crime on these Federal lands, might then open you up to “probable cause” that might lead to a search of your person, tent or RV, or maybe even camp. I heard a tale this week of someone who was caught with recreational substances in their car travelling to Burning Man; this was automatically deemed “trafficking” by the Nevada cops because the person was moving the drugs. It wasn’t quantity that determined the felony charge, it was being in a vehicle. Be careful out there people! The local authorities patrol with K-9 units, something unfamiliar to many San Franciscans used to the more laissez-faire attitude in the Bay Area. And they do not really have a whole lot to do up there, ever, except for one week, every year… this one time at Burning Man. Nevada passed laws in 2001 to recognize Medical Marijuana patients, however they do not recognize out of State cards or prescriptions. And the most recent development is, the District court declared these laws unconstitutional.

Despite its “Sin City” reputation, Las Vegas authorities are notoriously tough on drugs – if they catch you with them. Many celebrities have been busted there. Burning Man requires extra law enforcement officers, maybe some are from Vegas, or maybe all are just motivated to enforce Nevada state law to the max. You’d be a fool to think that Reno 911 is a documentary. Think more NCIS or Homeland. Also, for much of the drive to Burning Man you are travelling over tribal lands, and that brings its own set of rules and complications over and above Nevada and Federal law.
If you are questioned by the police, don’t disrespect them, and definitely don’t underestimate them. This is a long road trip into the middle of nowhere, not a quick visit to someone’s house party.

If anyone asks you if you have any drugs at Burning Man, tell them to fuck off.

Being careful is always a good idea. Watch your drinks at all times, and don’t let anyone spike them. There are plenty of free drinks handed out at Burning Man, and 99% of them are fine, but still…don’t accept anything from either a friend or a stranger, without asking exactly what it is in it. If you’re not sure, just do a little bit and see how you go. Drink a lot of water, and if you’re new to all this, make sure you know where your camp is, where the bathrooms are, and how/where you can find medical help if you or anyone else ever needs it.

Last year, during the 7-hour Exodus on Monday afternoon, we had a serious medical emergency. We were very lucky to have Dr Molly in the RV, and a decent first aid kit, but her specialty was not severe lacerations. We had a MURS walkie talkie tuned to the emergency channel – this is NOT the standard cheap one you get in Costco or Wal-Mart, I had to order it from Amazon. We called the 911 channel, and caught some of the medical team just as they had packed up and were about to leave the Playa. Luckily it was still fully charged because we had not used it – I prefer these check this out, GPS walkie talkies, they kicked ass at last year’s Burn and this year’s LIB. You can see where you’ve been and where your friends are (and feed spotter data to the Drones!). This new top of the line one looks pretty sweet too if you’re a high roller.

I haven’t used these Trisquare walkie-talkies, but Burner Dispatch recommends them because they have a text message capability – great if you’re in a noisy sound camp. They also have Caller ID and Call Waiting – shweet!

If you have a wayward partner, you might find this a useful hi-tech bondage accessory.

Burning Man has a 911 channel but the only way to reach it is if you have a MURS walkie talkie. This does not work on the standard ones. It’s only $70 bucks, make sure someone in your camp has one and everyone knows where it is and how to use it. Keep the MURS spectrum free for serious emergencies, and use the more common FRS channel for general communications. The MURS walkie talkie is longer range but kind of bulky and clunky, the FRS ones can be quite small and cute, and easily attach to your bike or person with a belt clip. You might want to consider one with a neoprene holster and an earbud.

Your entry fee provides medical insurance. And some of the best doctors in the country are at Burning Man. Still, if anything happens, Reno is a long way away – by helicopter, or if it’s not quite that serious, a really long way for an injured person by road.

Don’t let this post freak you out too much, I’m just warning you to take precautions, don’t be careless. Burning Man is great, it’s crazy, everyone is having a good time, there are all kinds of stranger dangers and adventures and fun experiences to be had. Just be aware that not everyone is on your side, it is a city of 60,000 people, be mindful of what could go wrong. You ain’t in Kansas no more! All kinds of shit is going down, everywhere, all the time. Burn on!

10 comments on “2013: Let’s Be Careful Out There!

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  5. As an update from the playa yesterday as to how LEO might be feeling this year esp. post-lawsuit loss: http://instagram.com/p/dQ2QiIzDCb/

    Most importantly know your rights when LEOs come into your camp or stop you:

    Your tent/RV (when not being driven) has the same rights as your home in the above link. Also if your tent is closed, they can’t see anything thru the window, and they do not have a warrant but dogs “hit” on your tent, there was a successful ruling against this recently as probably cause to search. So do not consent to a search. The same is not true for a moving vehicle stop.

    And finally memorize these lines when interacting with LEOs
    “Am I free to go?”
    “I’m going to remain silent.”
    “I don’t consent to a search.”
    Repeat the last one as often as needed until you are free to go. It works.

  6. well holy shit. is this piece of dirt the ONLY place to hold burning man? i’ve always thought burning man was a state of mind, not a fucking place. forgo all this unwanted bullshit, and move the event to a place with less bullshit to contend with. move it around the country each year. this will help burner on the east coast too.

  7. Using dogs to sniff (search) around a home without a warrant violates 4th Amendment, hence not legal: Florida v. Jardines, 133 S.Ct. 1409 (2013).

    Tents are considered homes with a reasonable expectation of privacy and are subject to 4th Amendment protection from warrantless searches: US v. Gooch, 6 F. 3d 673 – Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit, 1993.

    Film everything and sue the bastards!

    • Probable Cause will justify a home search. Just what constitutes probable cause is always a question, and requires an honest officers statement. Be careful!

    • nevadan authorities regularly violate the 4th amendment. it’s how they keep the budget high for their paid thugs and grease the palms of all the lawyers & politricks. they will change the court record. they will create a police report fulls of lies. they will have a judge who knows what’s going on rubber stamp the whole thing. nevada was found upon mining, the mafia, whores & nuclear waste. you think they care what regulations say?

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