24 Tips From Burners on Gate Safety

cops dogs

Burners have kicked off a timely discussion at the BurnTheMan Facebook group.

Here’s the ACLU Guide to your legal rights if pulled over by a police officer who wants to search your vehicle or your person.

CptSmashy said:
cops snifferHere are some of the things I had people tell me in the staging area and in the lanes on opening night for Gate. Stops were made in and around Gerlach and on Gate Rd between the turn off the pavement and Gate. There was also a very heavy police presence between Gate and Greeters and between Greeters and the traffic split.
1. Obscured license plate because of a bike rack or other item.
2. Running light out on a truck or trailer.
3. Operating light (tail/brake/head light) burned out.

4. No seatbelt.

5. Open container.

6. A passenger hanging out of the window while vehicle in motion.

7. Improper/dangerous load (items extending to far out the rear or the sides of the vehicle)

8. Failure to signal a lane change (on fucking gate road no less).

9. Following too close.

10. Speeding/reckless operation.

11. Littering (discarded cigarette butt or something falling off vehicle)

My spiel last year to each driver after checking tickets and searches were complete was basically this:

“The police presence is excessive and aggressive this year. Do not speed. Keep your seatbelts on. Keep your head, arms, hands, feet and bodies inside the vehicle at all times. Do not open and drink from anything that looks like an alcoholic beverage until you reach camp and park your vehicle. Keep the music turned down. Do not do anything else that could attract any attention from law enforcement. Stay safe and have a great burn.”

I helped at least 15/20 people ziptie license plates to the end of a back rack and rig a headlamp or other illuminating device on them.

And yes, there were vehicles we checked that were REEKING of pot smoke. I wished them good luck and to be EXTRA careful about not doing anything that might attract attention.

Here are some additional bonus tips from Burners, who will remain anonymous:

12. Last year I saw a lot of vehicles being pulled over (right inside the gate). Many of those where singled out because of tags. Some tags were out of date but a lot were obstructed by bike racks.

13. Your license plate and tags must be completely visible and fully lit

14. Don’t cover your back lights even with a bike wheel.
15. remember:”I do not consent to a search” and “am I free to go now?”. Rinse. Repeat.
16. Zip strip your license plate directly to the back bike and clip on a portable LED light somewhere to shine down at it at night. Don’t forget to turn it on if you are entering the city in the dark!
17. speeding was another reason I watched a lot of people get pulled over too just do the speed limit inside the gates.
18. My friends were pulled over right past the gate AND had a drug dog led through their van, even after they specifically did NOT consent to a search all because their license plate light was out.
19. Saw a guy driving a truck with bicycle bars leaning outside of the bed. Got pulled over inside the gate.
20. My tags and plate were visible & up to date, I was pulled over for “no lights on my license plate”. The dog hit, the search was on, but there was nothing to find!
21. There is the actual law of the land on plates. It must be scured to the vehicle. So duct tape may not be your best bet on this one, also if you are from a state that does not require a front plate, do yourself a favor. Put one on the front!! I have been pulled over 5 times in a vehicle without a front plate. It was legal in my state but still got me stopped in others. Creative Avoidance should be added to the list of principles.
22. We were pulled over just inside the gate last year during early entry on the premise that our bikes were blocking visibility of our license plate. We politely asked if the bike rack was illegal and what we could do to make it more visible. Should we try to secure the plate to the bike itself so it’s more visible? We were told “No, that’s not secure and could be dangerous, we might ticket you for that. This is no big deal anyway and your rack is legal, we won’t ticket you….You don’t have anything in there you shouldn’t, do you?”When we calmly attempted to assert our rights by stating “I do not consent to a search,” we were condescendingly told “That’s okay, you don’t have to” as they approached the car with their dog (I saw no “signaling” from the dog, but I’m no expert), opened our (foolishly unlocked) car doors and ransacked our entire vehicle. They unpacked everything, emptying ziplock bags full of gear and carelessly throwing whatever they found. It was a huge mess. There were no illicit substances for them to discover (we don’t even drink alcohol), but it was a huge pain in the ass after 18 hours on the road and a flat tire…all we wanted was for TreadHunter.com to save us, to get to camp, hug our friends, and go to sleep.

Please be aware, your rights will NOT be respected. If you are targeted, you WILL be searched. Regardless of where your license plate is hanging. Straight from the horses mouth. There is no way around this. Be ready. Be safe.

23. make sure those vanity plate covers don’t hide anything
24. I’m a police officer and a fellow burner. I want to explain a few things about your 4th amendment rights and Supreme Court precedent.

A police service dog (which you can recognize easily because they wear working dog vests) can be run on the exterior of the vehicle without consent, as long as the traffic stop typically doesn’t exceed 20min (some exceptions apply). If the dog “indicates” as interpreted by the handler, the police are allowed to search your vehicle even without your consent. However this search of your vehicle DOES NOT extent to body. Your person can only be patted down for weapons. Any search after that must be from consent or probable cause (like the smell of weed).

Also, if the vehicle is stopped for a traffic violation, and the passengers did not commit ANY crime (seatbelt/passenger hanging out of veh/open container),etc) THE PASSENGER IS NOT REQUIRED TO give personal information to the officer.

The officer CAN require all the occupants to exit the vehicle for ANY reason during the stop. If you are asked to exit, don’t argue just do it. However, make sure you shut the door behind you. This prevents the dog from entering the vehicle. If the officer opens the door to allow the dog to search the inside they have to explain why in court.

So my fellow burner tips are: don’t bring illegal drugs and if you do definitely don’t put them in passenger compartment of the vehicle or any personal gear that could link YOU to the illegal drugs. (Trailers, common storage bins, etc. are better options). this makes it harder for the officer to link the illegal drugs found to a specific occupant and raises your legal defense in court about true possession.

The cops can say “the dog hit” when maybe the dog just saw a colorful shiny thing it wanted to sniff.  The dog’s not telling. The local judge, sheriff, and DA are not very Burner friendly. Last year sniffer dogs were brought to Burning Man from the US Border to help out the integrated Fed/Ranger teams.


23 comments on “24 Tips From Burners on Gate Safety

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  4. With all of the stuff you bring to the burn in your vehicle, if you can’t figure out where to hide a bag of weed you don’t deserve to participate.

    • LOL good one.
      I would advise absolutely air tight glass containers for the stuff, and clean the exterior quite thoroughly after packing it. No cannabis molecules escape in to the air to end up in some nice doggy’s nose.

  5. Barry Cooper, former top narcotics officer and dog trainer turned anti-drug war activist, says that refusing a search is a HUGE red flag (a huge reasonable suspicion), and that if you consent (and don’t have other reasonable suspicions and have any stash well hid, which he covers), you’re likely to get away with a cursory search. To each his own, but his credentials are really high. Also learn how sniffing dogs really work.


  6. Two hearsays to share.

    Someone told me at the greeter’s station that they were pulled over. The officer’s told them that he thought the plates were expired until he looked closely after stopping them. Methinks fishing expedition on the part or Mr. Officer.

    A woman told me that her ride was pulled over for some sort of vehicular problem. The officer threatened to impound the vehicle, unless by chance anybody had weed to present for the accompanying fine, and he would let the driver off for the vehicle infraction. She gave them her weed and they all collectively paid the fine for the weed, and went on into BRC. One of my campmates exclaimed that this sounded like Mexico.

    Last year there was some sort of lawsuit that the ORG won, which denied extra $$$ to the local counties. The intense enforcement is possibly a result of that, a bit of vengeance , and show the ORG that would get $$$ in any case. I have a regional friend who lets me know in no uncertain terms that there are locals who HATE the event and HATE the ORG.
    In any case, there has been another legal agreement between the ORG and local county governments that cedes more $$$ to them. With any luck this will result in the return to the old fashioned heavy law enforcement rather than last year’s extreme enforcement. I have to wonder how such police-state ultra strict enforcement appears to the 20-25% of attendees who are from foreign countries. The heavy enforcement is giving the USA a bit of back eye IMHO.

  7. Getting to the burn last year was the ugliest road trip I have ever taken. Why are we putting up with this behavior.

  8. There are 19 states that do not require or issue front license plates which includes the one I live in. Pulled over for no front license plate? These LEO’s better know the 19 that don’t.

      • Except, they’ll get off because no probable cause for a search. Yes, they’ll have to spend the time in court. But if they can get video of the cop saying that he’s pulling them over for no front license plate, and if NV is still doing fruit of a poisoned tree approach – ie: no legal reason for a pull over means no evidence is legally gathered, then dude goes free.

        Vehicle requirements follow the vehicle, if it’s legal in the state it’s registered in, it’s legal. That’s not going to stop an illegal search. And yeah, you’d need to sue to cops (and that’s a clusterfuck of money and BS) to get paid / make them stop.

        • If they can convince the Burner-hating local judge of that, sure. This is the Wild West, you’re crazy if you think you can get away with smuggling drugs just because you don’t have to have a front license plate in your home state – whatever the law says. Don’t go to court expecting justice…

  9. Just a note about Gate Crew, also. If you’re bringing in a truck Gate Crew will of course have you open it up so they can inspect it. They always work in pairs – usually one really nice lady with a clipboard, and then some DPW reject who climbs all over your stuff looking for stowaways.

    Here is where they perform their grift. The sweet lady with the clipboard will walk you back up the cab of your rig while the thug continues to go through all of your stuff looking for top-shelf booze and other items of value.

    NEVER take your eyes off whoever they send into your vehicle to search for ‘stowaways’. You have been warned.

    • Clipboard? Really? I’m the cute lady and I’ve never had a clipboard and yes I do some climbing into trucks to fund stowaways. DPW reject? well if they want to reject DPW and come to GATE we’ll welcome them and rangers, lamplighters, playa info, center camp. Heck we’ve even been known to invite a few greeters!

    • Also we’re not going to grift your booze, we do have enough of our own thanks. If you wish to give us some thanks for your offer. I once got a coconut. Tasted great.

    • Hey Boopy, can you post a picture of yourself. That way gate crew will know who you are, tell you to turn your ass around. Not really the best place to accuse Gate crew and DPW of stealing.

      • Actually the best place to mention that. Just because someone works for the festival doesn’t mean they are no less corrupt then the dirty cops doing searches. If it is true that should be held just as accountable, and publicly shamed as well. However, dint go making shit up either.

      • But why you mad?

        And yes, when you fail at DPW long enough you Gate Crew is your last resort. They will take anyone.

        The chick taking the paperwork sometimes has a clipboard. Is the clipboard really the problem? Are you saying because some of them don’t carry clipboards that you should leave your possession unattended while someone who likely failed at DPW riffles through your stuff? I’ve lost top-shelf liquor twice before wising up. And have heard stories from people who’ve worked with Gate Crew. Keep up the illusion if you want to.

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