2013 Burning Man = Police State on the playa State, fed law enforcement law enforcement 1 officer to every 1,000 participants

burning man cops

Busted at Burning man? See Nevada Laws & Penalties

UPDATE DISCUSSION ON BURNING MAN POLICE PRESENCE: http://burners.me/2013/09/07/business-insider-comments-on-police-presence-at-burning-man-2013

The freedom-loving hippie “burners” attending the Burning Man festival in Black Rock City, Nev. this week may believe they’re communing in a happy cocoon with no laws. 

In reality, undercover federal agents from all over the West are swarming the “temporary community” as they do every year and busting people for doing or selling drugs, local attorney and former cop Arnold Brock tells Business Insider. These agents do whatever they can to fit in at the 50,000-person festival, which Brock called a “unique event” that’s kind of like Woodstock.

Drone’s eye view of Burning Man 2013

Last year we had an undercover agent dressed up as catwoman,” Brock says. “They will do whatever they do to … ferret out what they are considering criminal activity.”

Brock has an entire page on his website devoted to the “Burning-Man Related Arrests” that can happen to out-of-towners attending the festival. The festival goers might have their guard down and could be easy targets.

“It is a tremendous opportunity for undercover agents to go have a little fun and work a limited geographic area,” Brock says. “And that is exactly what they do.”

In some cases, Brock says, federal agents will even follow vehicles involved in larger drug deals from out of state and bust them once they arrive at Burning Man. Last year, 350 people were arrested thereaccording to the Reno Gazette.

Some burners have accused the cops of being overzealous in recent years. Festival attendees have complained about undercover female agents explicitly asking male burners for drugs as well as drug dogs brazenly roaming the camps, the Associated Press reported back in 2010.

Federal officials, however, said Burning Man needs to be policed.

“I don’t want my guys to be party poopers, but we have a job to do,” Mark Pirtle, special agent in charge for the Bureau of Land Management, told the AP. “[Festival goers] are not bad people, but they like to use drugs.

ASK JOE BURNINGMANVIDEO UPDATE: Reno news KRNV Ask Joe: How many crimes occur at Burning Man ?

Patty  Gordon wrote in saying she has heard there are many serious crimes committed at Burning Man and she wants to know if that’s true ?

Patty, Pershing County is considered the lead law enforcement agency when it comes to Burning Man. I checked with Sheriff Machado in Pershing County. He did not have complete numbers but I did a get partial list. There are 50 investigative cases which are now open and being investigated.   Machado says the crimes reported at burning man this year included open and gross lewdness, twelve sexual assaults, battery and various property crimes and DUI.  A total of 15 people were taken to jail.    Keep in mind there are more than 60,000 people up there for burning man, but there clearly are crimes being committed during the festival.    Again the sheriff’s department is still compiling all of the numbers and we’ll follow up when they have complete list

2013 Burning Man Tyranny on the Playa

Tyranny on the playa An estimated 68,000 people are anticipated to stream into the Black Rock Desert near Gerlach, Nev. for Burning Man beginning Sunday, and federal and state law enforcement agencies for the event said this year they are implementing a new integration to ensure the public’s safety.

“We have integrated resources and manpower out of need and because the population has grown,” Pershing County Sheriff Richard Machado said. “The population is to the point now that it’s imperative that we work together to manage this event.”2013 burningman

In previous years, each sector of law enforcement covered thier own agency jurisdictions and relied on the resources they brought out for the event.

In addition to sharing resources this year, there will be one law enforcement command post in Black Rock City stationed near Burning Man’s Black Rock Ranger’s station and each vehicle will have a state officer and a federal officer to ensure they can respond to any incident at the event.

2013 The Man burns!

Know your rights at burning man!

2012 Burn video

Golden Lips of Silence – Playa Police

“We knew that we needed to take an internal look at this operation and we knew that integration was a key component of that,” the Bureau of Land Management Special Agent-In-Charge Dan Love said.

Love said they will staff 102 officers total for the event between the PCSO and the BLM. He said for every shift, 64 officers will be on duty on the playa and will rotate in overlapping shifts every 12 hours. Overall, he said, it’s a ratio of 1 officer to every 1,000 participants.

In 2012, there were about 350 arrests and citations during the event which included drug violations. Love said that they will use a variety of techniques to police the event and ensure compliance which includes K-9 canines and some searches where merited.

When it comes to searches of persons or vehicles conducted on the playa, Machado said that they are bound by certain laws and search and seizure limitations with what officers can and cannot do. He said they are not going to step out of the scope of that.

Love said federally it would be a violation of the Fourth Amendment to conduct an illegal search and a violation of constitutional rights because the officer would be operating outside of their authority.

Read more: http://www.rgj.com/article/20130823/EVENTS04/308230039/State-fed-law-enforcement-integrates-2013-Burning-Man

Burning Man is a POLICE State | 13 MUST Follow Rules for 2013:

2013 Update

Lawyers for Burners will continue to provide support and resources for Participants who are cited or arrested at the 2013 Burning Man Event. Please fill out a feedback form on the top left tab, and Lawyers for Burners will respond with legal information and assistance in finding legal representation for your case.

Alerts for 2013

Gate Road

Gate road continues to be a staging ground for the BLM to conduct aggressive vehicle stops. BLM law enforcement officers stop vehicles after they enter the Event just past the Greeters station for a variety of reasons. Many participants have reported that officers asked the

Participant if she has any drugs and whether she would consent to a search of her vehicle. Some Participants reported that after they said no, the officer went back to his vehicle and returned with a drug sniffing dog. Some participants reported that it seemed like an officer can cause his dog to “alert” even without the presence of illegal substances. This “alert” can become probable cause to search Participant’s vehicle. Thus, Participants should proceed with great caution on all roads in Black Rock City, especially Gate Road.

BLM Officers and Pershing County Deputies Patrolling Together

The BLM announced for 2013 that it will partner with local Pershing County Sheriff Deputies in their patrols of Black Rock City. Teams of one BLM officer and one Pershing County Deputy will ride together in a single vehicle. The Pershing County Deputy will handle enforcement of state law and the BLM officer will handle enforcement of federal law.

Current BLM law enforcement priorities (based on the citations it issued in 2012) appear to be motor vehicle regulation and enforcement of drug laws. As reported below, over 70% of BLM law enforcement citations and arrests were drug related. Be aware that that Nevada’s drug trafficking laws are the strictest in the nation. Even gifting a small quantity of drugs to someone could result in being charged with drug trafficking. BLM and Pershing County working together could mean that there will be more arrests instead of the usual citations.

Lawyers for Burners believes that arrests should be limited to those people who are dangerous or disruptive to the Event. While receiving a citation is inconvenient and expensive, being arrested in the middle of Burning Man is major hardship for the Participant and friends. Participants whom the BLM catch possessing, using or even gifting drugs should be cited and released.

Results from 2012

BLM law enforcement for Burning Man told the Wall Street Journal, in an article which appeared on August 31, 2012, “My officers aren’t out there writing citations for a small joint; We’re looking for a large quantity of drugs.” But an analysis of the BLM’s law enforcement statistics from 2012 seems to contradict this statement.

BLM Law Enforcement issued 365 citations in 2012. Almost 70 percent of the citations, 253 citations, were drug related.       But there were not 253 cases where BLM officers found “large quantities of drugs” in Black Rock City in 2012.

Lawyers for Burners heard from plenty of Participants who received citations for very small amounts of a controlled substance including, and with great frequency, marijuana. There also were many citations in 2012 for marijuana paraphernalia possession. The BLM continues to list possession of drug paraphernalia as violation of the published closure order.         But marijuana paraphernalia is hardly equates with “large quantities of drugs.”

According to the BLM, there were also 11 citations/arrests for “Distribution/Trafficking” of drugs. Presumably, the BLM treats cases involving “large quantities of drugs” as“Distribution/Trafficking.” Thus, there were 11 cases involving “large quantities of drugs” in Black Rock City 2012. And the BLM wrote 253 citations for small quantities of drugs.

At the January 17, 2013 arraignment calendar, we also met a Participant who received 7 citations during one law enforcement stop in 2012. The BLM issued separate citations for a driving violation, weapons possession (a belt buckle with brass knuckles) and 5 additional citations for possession of small quantities of controlled substances.

Lawyers for Burners has observed for years that Participants often get multiple citations for a single law enforcement stop. Therefore, the number of citations in a given year has little significance and does not correlate with a level or incidence of infractions or crimes within Black Rock City. The Participant we met who received 7 citations at a vehicle stop underscores our message that the number of citations issued per year is controlled and manipulated by the BLM.

The good news for Participants in 2012 is that every Participant had the option to plead guilty to a non-drug offense like “Closure Order Violation” and pay a fine of between $400 for marijuana and up to $950 for multiple controlled substances. Lawyers for Burners attorneys negotiated this option with the office of the United States Attorney, District of Nevada in 2011, and it continues to provide a consistent and reasonable resolution of BLM issued citations.

Unfortunately, many Participants are unaware of this option and they simply pay the amount of the citations ($125 or $525) by mail. But Participants who do this can be pleading guilty to possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia. This guilty plea could negatively impact their personal and professional future.

Lawyers for Burners can recommend attorneys who will represent Participants and negotiate a more favorable plea arrangement. The lawyer can appear in court for the Participant so that the Participant does NOT have to travel to Reno, Nevada. Lawyers for Burners attorneys charge very reasonable fees. Some attorneys will represent Participants for no charge based on ability to pay.


What you must know is that Burning Man is a VERY SOPHISTICATED POLICE STATE, EXTENSIVELY PATROLLED and MONITORED by State and Federal Officers. They literally motor by your camp every twenty minutes looking for someone ‘anyone’ to bust.  Not to mention Camp Spies in costume and Special Operations sporting night vision goggles and underage shills.  And their interest is simple – they’re dying to give you a citation.  They could care less about what you’re doing, what they’re keen about is the ‘enormous’ amount of money generated by these citations, more citations = more money for State and Federal coffers.  If you go, check out their equipment, it will all be brand new and state of the art.  And who do you think pays for all of that personnel and equipment?  Ding! Ding! Ding! You guessed it, the ‘Burners’. And remember, neither Nevada nor the Federal Government will recognize your medical marijuana card.

Nevada Laws & Penalties

Offense Penalty Incarceration   Max. Fine


Personal Use

1 oz or less (first offense) misdemeanor N/A $ 600
1 oz or less (second offense) misdemeanor N/A $ 1,000
1 oz or less (third offense) misdemeanor 1 year $ 1,000
1 oz or less (fourth offense) felony 1* – 4 years $ 5,000
Or mandatory assessment or treatment for first and second offense
* Mandatory minimum sentence

With intent to distribute

Any amount felony 1* – 4 years $ 5,000
Following a felony conviction of any drug offense felony 1* – 5 years $ 10,000
If previously convicted of two or more drug felonies felony 3* – 15 years $ 20,000
* Mandatory minimum sentence

Sale or Delivery

Less than 100 lbs (first offense) felony 1* – 6 years $ 20,000
Less than 100 lbs (second offense) felony 2* – 10 years $ 20,000
Less than 100 lbs (third offense) felony 3* – 15 years $ 15,000
100 – 2000 lbs felony 1* – 5 years $ 25,000
2000 – 10,000 lbs felony 2* – 10 years $ 50,000
10,000 lbs or more felony 2* – life $ 200,000
* Mandatory minimum sentence


100 – 2000 lbs felony 1* – 5 years $ 25,000
2000 – 10,000 lbs felony 2* – 10 years $ 50,000
10,000 lbs or more felony 2* – life $ 200,000
* Mandatory minimum sentence

Hash & Concentrates

Penalties for hashish are the same as for marijuana. Please see the marijuana penalties section for further details.


Possession or use of paraphernalia misdemeanor 6 mos $ 1,000
Sale, delivery, manufacture, or possession with intent felony 1* – 4 years $ 5,000
Sale to a minor who is at least 3 years younger felony 1* – 5 years $ 10,000
* Mandatory minimum sentence

Civil Asset Forfeiture

Vehicles and other property may be seized.

Miscellaneous (license suspensions, civil damages, etc…)

Knowingly maintaining a structure used for drug offenses felony 1* – 6 years $ 10,000
100 – 2000 lbs civil penalty N/A $ 350,000
2000 – 10,000 lbs civil penalty N/A $ 700,000
10,000 lbs or more civil penalty N/A $ 1,000,000
* Mandatory minimum sentence
Cops lined up at Burning Man.

Cops lined up at Burning Man.

Now how does ole Mota Bota know about this?  Well, my first Burn was in 1992, and there were both State and Federal officers around, but they were kinda like us, enjoying the festivities and looking out for our safety, not our wallets – what a concept!

Burning Man sculpture

Burning Man sculpture

Now fast forward to my last Burn in 2009.  In my camp alone a gentleman was busted for marijuana while driving within the Burning Man compound (the most dangerous place to drive).  He had a faulty taillight on his trailer and a pot tin on his dash.  The officers could’ve cared less about the taillight, but eagerly sighted him for the pot.  That citation was $675., to be paid within 45 days, and if not, a warrant would be issued, the infraction amount increased, and the citation would be part of his permanent record. My lovely neighbors across the street, a young working couple of 40 with toddlers at home, offered (like scads of others) a free bar.  They were visited by an under age shill from Special Operations and busted.  That citation was $1,500., to be paid in full within 45 days, with the same scenario as above.

Burning Man.  photo:  oliver fluck

Burning Man. photo: oliver fluck

This was just in my camp and the neighbors across the road!  They (Law Enforcement) are solely interested in the money, and can you blame them?  Let’s assume this year they bust a modest 500 people, with an average fine of $1,000. –  folks that’s half a million dollars! – ‘if’ the fines are paid on time, if not, that number escalates substantially.

Burning the Man.  photo:  ap

Burning the Man. photo: ap

So What Do You Do? 

1.  Make sure your vehicle is currently registered and all the lights are working properly.

2.  Never ‘ever’ go over the speed limit ‘anywhere’ (especially inside the BM compound).

3.  Don’t ‘at any time’ ride on top or outside of your car, and wear your seat-belt at all times accordingly.  The art cars will be excepted once they’re sanctioned.

4.  No open alcohol containers in your vehicle at any time, period.

5.  Never smoke pot in a public place – the world’s easiest bust via odor.

Relaxing at Burning Man.

6.  Never smoke pot in your car – even when parked, keep it in the tent.

 7.  If you’re going to do a free bar, ‘check IDs’ if you’re the ‘least’ bit suspicious of an underage drinker.

 8.  Know your rights, they still need probable cause to search your vehicle.

 9.  Never offer drugs to strangers – especially those two cute chicks, they’re narcs!

 10.  Keep any drugs concealed in route to BM – party when you get there.

Burning Man.  photo:  dailymail.co.uk

Burning Man. photo: dailymail.co.uk

11.  Use common sense and trust your gut, if someone seems cool, they probably are;  if they seem flaky, they probably are.  The neighbors you camp with will be the most trustworthy.


 13.  And lastly, go to ‘jackrabbitspeaks’ – this is the official e-mail site of Burning Man – and type ‘law enforcement’ in the subject column.  You can also check out ‘citations’ and ‘arrests’.  Read what Will Chase and the Burners have to say about law enforcement, because I’m sure I’ve missed a few things.


You’re never alone at Burning Man

Burning Man is a cathartic experience like no other.  The people, the art, the machines, the music, the fire, the sharing, the shelters, the theme camps, and the costumes; all make for an unforgettable experience, just be smart and make it a great experience.

– Mota Bota 

PS: Mota will be at ‘Symbiosis’ this year.

Burning Man...

Burning Man…  photo:  stuckincustoms.com


What Is Burning Man?


14 thoughts on “2013 Burning Man = Police State on the playa State, fed law enforcement law enforcement 1 officer to every 1,000 participants

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  8. This year (2013) saw many cop vehicles doing 30 mph at least, off road, leaving rooster tail of playa dust. No emergency lights. These guys weren’t headed to a heart attack; they were just in a hurry to go somewhere. Maybe to lunch, end of shift, or a potty. But bypassing the burners who of course were too slow.

    This is illegal. Cops, unless in pursuit, on call to crime, or emergency, have to follow the same traffic laws they enforce, which in this case in many places was 5 mph, with seat belt. Not doing that for a burner is an invitation to a K9 car search (no, they didn’t get me, but I saw them get many).

    Somebody needs to do some videos of high speed ranger cars on the playa, and file a civil suit. I’m really sick of the arrogance.

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  10. What utter stupidity to fantasize about freedom at an amusement park with an astronomical entrance fee. Pathetic idiots, these mortals!

  11. This is good info about current conditions with the BLM and dont do any crap outside you wouldn’t do out in the default world with the BLM and whoever else watching us for “opportunities”
    I’ve never been a hippie. I go to burning man for the amazing community that springs up. If hippies pay the ticket like the rest of us they are welcome. Some of them come with the most amazing costumes. But its not just the freedom loving hippies that show up for Burning Man.

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