A mother’s crusade to amend the RAVE Act & how you can help make festivals safer


By The Festival Lawyer //

Join The Festival Lawyer, Showbams and a new coalition called Amend The Rave Act (ATRA) to make Festivals safer for everyone.

The “RAVE” Act stands for the “Reducing Americans’ Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act”. It’s a federal law that might win the title for “most misnamed law ever” since instead of reducing young people’s vulnerability to the drug it has greatly increased ecstasy’s danger at festivals and raves.

Through a series of unintended consequences, the RAVE Act has made festivals much more dangerous places than they need to be. This year alone, two people died and about 20 were hospitalized at the Mad Decent Block Party in August in Maryland. There were also drug-related deaths at Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas and at LA’s Hard Summer festival.

Additional safety measures relating to drug use (also known as “harm reduction measures”) could be taken at a lot of music festivals and raves. So why isn’t more being done? The problem is that these event producers and organizers are worried that if they take these safety measures they might expose themselves to criminal liability under the RAVE Act.

In August of last year, a young woman named Shelley Goldsmith, a gifted honors student at the University of Virginia, died of heatstroke at an EDM event in Washington D.C.

Shelley’s mother, Dede Goldsmith has now started a campaign in her honor to Amend The RAVE Act (ATRA) and push for greater safety measures at raves and festivals. You can read about her campaign and sign a petition in support here.

But why do we need to change the RAVE Act? What does the RAVE Act have to do with the death of Shelley Goldsmith or others who died from MDMA use at festivals?

It was a year ago that Shelley Goldsmith died. By all accounts Shelley was a remarkable young woman. You can read more about her here.

shelley-biden01Vice President Joe Biden introduced the RAVE Act into Congress when he was a Senator and was mainly responsible for it being passed into law in 2003. In one of those crazy coincidences that sometimes happens in life, Shelley Goldsmith had actually met Biden at an event the year before she died.

Shelley had taken MDMA the night of her death. However, she did not die of an “overdose”, but of heatstroke.

By far the most common cause of MDMA-related medical emergencies and death is heatstroke, where MDMA is only one of a number of factors involved. That’s because even a “normal” dose of MDMA raises body temperature about one degree and also inhibits the body’s ability to regulate its own temperature.

The harm reduction group, DanceSafe, recently wrote an article discussing the relationship of heatstroke to “overdoses”.

One of the other major dangers in taking MDMA is that it may not be MDMA at all. If you don’t know what I am talking about check out this documentary by Bunk Police called “What’s in your Baggie?

Shelley’s mom, Dede Goldsmith, wonders what her daughter would have done if she had received drug education and peer-to-peer counseling before or at the event. Perhaps Shelley might have chosen not to use MDMA. Dede also feels that better safety measures at the event (like free and readily available water and “chill-out” rooms and areas) could potentially have saved her daughter’s life.

I have had a chance to talk to Dede Goldsmith on the phone, and I find her remarkable. Rather than being overwhelmed by her family’s tragedy, she has decided to make it her mission to change things and make festivals safer. She talks about her mission in this local news story.

In 2002, then Senator Joe Biden introduced the RAVE Act, a bill intended to expand the federal “crack-house statute.” The “crack-house statute,” a byproduct of the fierce drug war of the 1980’s, made it possible for the Feds to go after and prosecute landlords of a private residence where crack cocaine was being used or sold.

After all, what does “maintaining a drug-involved premise” mean? Things like the speed of the music in beats per minute or the appearance of glow sticks and menthol products.

The idea of the RAVE Act was to expand that statute to go after “rogue promoters” who were putting on illegal “raves” with rampant drug use. The RAVE Act expanded the earlier “crack-house statute” to include temporary venues like these underground “raves”. The RAVE Act also created a new crime, now making it illegal for promoters or landlords to “maintain a drug-involved” premise.

From the start, the vagueness of this language caused problems. After all, what does “maintaining a drug-involved premise” mean? To answer that question, the bill included a list of “findings”. The idea of these “findings” was to give examples of the type of things that Feds should look for as ways to identify an illegal “rave”. Things like the speed of the music in beats per minute or the appearance of glow sticks and menthol products.

Unfortunately, the bill also targeted aspects of harm reduction as criminal identifiers. For example, the original “findings” of the RAVE Act included things like the presence of freely available water and chill-out rooms. Huge opposition to the bill quickly arose. Aside from the fact that an entire music community was being specifically targeted, opponents were worried that legitimate promoters taking reasonable safety measures for drug use at their events would be targeted unfairly under the new law.

Ultimately Biden changed the name of his bill to the less inflammatory sounding “Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act of 2003” and struck the “findings” from the bill. The IDAPA was passed in 2003, although most still refer to it by its original name, the RAVE Act.

After the RAVE Act – oh, sorry, the “Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act” – became law, the DEA set up “Rave Task Forces” to target different events. Despite the language being removed from the final version of the law, events were sometimes targeted due to the original “findings” of the bill (i.e. things like freely available water and chill-out rooms being present). In a few cases, even the presence of medical personnel or a harm reduction groups like DanceSafe were seen as suspect.

The EDM “scene” is far different than it was in the early 2000’s. The problem of underground or illegal “raves” is largely gone. Instead, EDM has joined the mainstream. These days, an EDM “festival” is a massive three-day event with intense security and safety planning. Accusing a modern promotion group like SFX or Insomniac of, “maintaining a drug involved premise” is ludicrous.

But a lot of the event producers of today are survivors of this first wave of “crack-house”/RAVE Act prosecutions in the early 2000’s.

For example, Pasquale Rotella, the CEO of Insomniac Events, explained during a recent Reddit AMA that it was his past experiences with the Feds that caused him to be cautious about “harm reduction groups.”

“When the DEA started going after innocent event producers under the Crack House Law, having DanceSafe at an event was one of the things they looked at to justify putting them in jail for 20 years,” he said. “If you don’t know about the Crack House Law, you should look into it. Dance culture has had a very challenging past. It’s amazing where it is right now.”

So for a lot of current event producers, the RAVE Act is always out there lingering, kind of like a legal Keyser Soze. They worry that if they allow drug education or public safety and health measures at their events, they might be opening themselves up to criminal or civil liability.


It’s just not realistic to think that if you get tight enough security you can eliminate drug use completely at a festival. This year’s Electric Zoo had such intensive security measures that the New York Post called the event a “day-glo North Korea”. And yet when you read this article by The New York Times, it’s clear that no matter how many undercover cops you have on hand, some folks will use drugs at any festival.

Let’s face it, drugs have been part of music festivals since there first were music festivals. If you’ve ever watched the movie Woodstock, throughout the movie you can hear different announcements being made to the crowd about various safety issues. At one point the announcer infamously warns everyone that the “Brown acid is bad, don’t take the brown acid”.

That’s right, at one of the first music festivals is also one of the first “harm reduction” messages ever.

Tammy L. Anderson, a sociology and criminal justice professor at the University of Delaware, recently presented an academic paper, “Molly Deaths and Why the Drug War Won’t Clean Up Rave Culture”. Her research has shown that the RAVE Act is just bad public policy and actually discourages organizers from promoting drug safety at their events.

A large coalition is coming together to support a simple idea, to amend the RAVE Act by making it clear that legitimate owners and promoters can take reasonable safety measures to protect their patrons without fear of prosecution.

The proposed language will no doubt be changed many times in this process. But the coalition that is forming is hoping to send language to Congress that may be something like this:

Safety measures taken by property owners and promoters in an effort to reduce the medical risks associated with illegal drug use at their events do not constitute evidence of maintaining a drug involved premise under this Act.

I have had a chance to talk to Dede Goldsmith and meet with members of this coalition. I can tell you that this is a serious campaign and there is a realistic chance to get a bill in front of Congress this fall to do this.

How amazing would it be if we as a festival community came together to change a federal law? Together, we can make festivals safer. Sign the petition, share the knowledge and encourage your fellow festies to do the same.


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Amend The Rave Act

10 tips for safely navigating an entrance search at a festival

bonnaroo-(festival-snob)_postPhoto by FestivalSnob.com // Written by The Festival Lawyer //

It is just about impossible to enter a music festival, concert, rave or any kind of a major sporting event these days without being searched as a condition of entry.

This isn’t likely to change. If anything, the trend is towards more security at big events. For example, Electric Zoo recently announced new security measures including drug-sniffing dogs stationed at all entrances and the use of undercover narcotics officers to patrol the festival grounds.

Obviously, festivals need to be able to search folks for weapons and keep people safe. But what about the festivalgoers? Do you have any rights if a search goes too far or you run into an abusive security guard? Or did you give them all up at the entrance?

Here is some legal knowledge (and practical tips) that can help you navigate that entrance search like this guy:



In general, The 4th Amendment prohibits the police from randomly stopping you and searching you.

If you are stopped at a festival, I’ve advised people to ask the question “Am I Free to Leave?” to determine if they are being detained. If you are detained, you should never consent to a search of your person or property by the police. Instead, keep calm, show your ID and continue to ask if you are free to leave. You should always insist on your right to remain silent and ask for a lawyer. Whenever possible, have your festival buddy witness or document the encounter.

The following infographic lays out these rights in a simple “flowchart” form.


From a legal standpoint, you clearly have these rights once you have passed through the entrance search. But what rights apply when you first are searched entering a fest?


Almost every festival has ticket language and signs at the entrances stating that you are agreeing to be searched as a condition of coming into the venue. For example, here is Electric Zoo’s ticket language:

“Your use of the ticket is contingent upon your unconditional and voluntary acceptance to be searched…prior to your admission to the venue and/or at any time thereafter.” (Electric Zoo)

This is what is called an “Implied Consent Waiver”. “Implied” meaning that you knew you were going to be searched and decided to come in anyway.

Here’s the thing. Courts really don’t like any kind of an “implied” waiver of Constitutional rights. In fact, courts often throw out these kind of implied waiver searches when they are challenged by festivalgoers.

Courts look at several factors to determine if an implied consent search is legal:
1) Did the sign and ticket language make it clear you were going to be searched?
2) Were you deprived of a benefit if you refused to be searched?
3) Did you know you had a right to refuse to be searched?
4) Did you demonstrate “affirmative conduct” agreeing to be searched?
5) Was the search necessary to a “vital interest” of the festival?

The point is, it is NOT legal for festivals to just put up a “You agree to be searched” sign up at the entrance and then conduct a blanket search without any limitation. The courts instead look at what is being searched for, what you agreed to in your ticket and how the search is being conducted on a case by case basis.



Normally, private security has a right to conduct a reasonable search on you as a condition of entry BEFORE entering private property if they are looking for weapons. This probably isn’t a constitutional violation as long as it’s made clear to you that you’re free to walk away.

Courts have long recognized that festivals have a “vital interest” in keeping their patrons safe from weapons and other dangerous items knuckleheads might bring in. Because of this, courts have allowed “limited” searches if they are for the purpose of looking for weapons and projectiles and dangerous items. (“Limited’ meaning a pat down search for large/hard objects or screening through a metal detector.)

That’s reasonable right? I mean, I love music festivals. But I REALLY love the festival and EDM community and want people to be safe. Any responsible festivalgoer should want a safe place for all of us to play. Even if this wasn’t the law, I’d agree to a “limited” search like this because nobody has any business bringing a weapon into our space.

(Fun fact: The song “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple refers to a fire started during the Montreaux Jazz festival by “Some stupid with a flare gun.”)


In State v. Iaccarino, 767 So. 2d 470 (Fla. Dist. Ct. app. 2000) the Court struck down “invasive” entry searches at the “ZenFest” festival. (“Invasive” is legalese for “Wait, you touched people where?”)

I mentioned above that festivals have to show that their entrance searches are being done for a “vital interest” of the festival to be found legal.

In this case the court rejected the idea that keeping drugs out was enough of a “vital interest” to allow this level of intimate and personal searching:

“If this court permitted the illegality of the substances themselves to rise to the level of “vital interests,” then a similar sign posting would justify any search of any person at any time and to any degree. For example, such a “vital interest” could seemingly justify a search at a high school football game, where each student, teacher, and parent could be directed to take off shoes and socks, pull out their bras, empty their pockets and the contents of wallets, and have their crotch and genitals frisked.”

In other words, courts draw a distinction between limited searches for weapons and “invasive” personal searches for drugs.

Part of the problem in the Iaccarino case was how far they were going in these searches. They were basically treating the patrons as if they were being booked into a jail. Searches included things like “genital taps” and “crotch frisking”(!?) (Which probably is not nearly as much fun as the name suggests.)

As a practical matter, often it’s not clear whether the searcher thinks they have the right to search you in a more personal way or if they are asking for permission to do so.

Asking in a calm, polite way, “Are you asking for my permission to search further?” or “ Do I have a choice to be searched in this way?” can clarify if you are being “ASKED” for a further search or being “ORDERED” to submit to a more invasive search. You can then make an informed choice as to how to handle that situation.



There are certain places where courts have said the danger of terrorism is so high you are essentially entering a “4th Amendment free” zone and can be searched at will. The most typical example is an airport.

In a 2006 Valparaiso Law Review article the author recaps all the cases I mention above and notes that currently there is no legal way to randomly and invasively search people entering a sporting event.

Rather than thinking, “Oh that must be because WE FREAKING LIVE IN AMERICA” he argues that these cases are old and that after 9/11 we should start treating festivals and sporting events like airports.

In fact, the TSA has already assumed that festivals are like airports and sent its VIPR units out to randomly search festivalgoers.

A conservative court in 2014 might agree with this logic and treat festivals and sporting events like airports. Or after all of the overdoses we see at events a court might change its mind and now consider searching for drugs a “vital interest” for festivals. But it’s important for festivalgoers and promoters to understand that is NOT the law currently.


You can improve your experience navigating these searches by adjusting your attitude and demeanor. I call it “acting like a festival pro”.

Keep the line moving. Be attentive. Have your ID out and ready, purse open, pockets empty, etc. Maybe skip the “Hey buddy, this is the most someone has touched me all week” joke they’ve heard a million times.

First impressions are important – The security guard will subconsciously make a split second decision about you. Paint the picture you want them to see. Present yourself in a non-threatening manner. Make eye contact. Be friendly. SMILE. Heck you are about to go into an awesome life experience, why wouldn’t you be smiling?

I always show deference to the security staff and say things like, “How are you doing today, sir?” Remember, they are people too and they are just doing their jobs. Many times the staff will be attending the festival too, and they aren’t trying to make your life difficult. You can be calm when you know in the back of your head that if something goes wrong you know your rights and how to enforce them.

And of course, don’t bring in dangerous items to the festival (do I really need to list that?)



The 4th Amendment prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures normally only applies to private security guards when they are acting as “agents of the government.”

To decide this, courts look at whether there is such a coordinated effort between real cops and private security that they are the same. (Things like a unified command structure, same communication system, coordinated arrests etc.)

The bad news is that if private security officers aren’t found to be “government agents,” you can’t get a judge to throw out the evidence against you in a criminal case.

Technically, a private security guard only has the right to arrest you the same way a private citizen does. (A so called “citizen’s arrest”). What I’ve seen as a practical matter is that private security will typically do the initial search and then call the real police in if they find something interesting.

But there are cases that say that private security is only allowed to search you for the purpose of deciding if you should be ejected or allowed in. And if you have something you aren’t supposed to, you can withdraw your consent and ask to be ejected instead.

The Nebraska Supreme court talks about this in a case called, State v. Smith, 782 N.W.2d 913 (Neb.2010)

“The State argues that Smith impliedly consented to the search because he was aware that Club patrons were subject to a pat down and search. That may have been the case when Smith got in line, but Smith withdrew his consent before his pocket was searched. The Club may have been free to turn him away but it was not free to turn out his pockets.”

If private security feels something in your pocket and asks to see it…you don’t have to show them. Respectfully and politely say,

“I am withdrawing my consent to any search. I am asking that I be ejected and my ticket price refunded.”



Here’s the thing, you don’t have a lot of rights when it comes to drug dogs. In Illinois v. Caballes, the Supreme Court ruled that police do not need reasonable suspicion to use drug dogs to sniff a vehicle during a legitimate traffic stop.

The Supreme Court followed that up with the outrageous Florida v. Harris case. Here, the Court rejected the idea that police should have to show that drug dogs are reliable evidence finders but just need to show they had the proper training.

Which is unfortunate because these dogs are not reliable. In their dissenting opinion of Caballes, Justices Souter and Ginsburg pointed to studies showing that drug dogs frequently return false positives (12.5-60% of the time, according to one study). In fact, a Chicago Tribune field study revealed that drug dogs are more often wrong than they are right when alerting for drugs in vehicles.

This poor track record can be due to poor handlers, poorly trained dogs or even there can be officers who train their dogs to falsely “alert” on suspects.

There aren’t many tips to handling drug dogs but my friends at “Flex Your Rights” list a few here.


If you run into a private security guard who is conducting an overly invasive or inappropriate search, alert a supervisor. Have a friend with you document the encounter and let the supervisor (as well as the festival promoters) know that you have been handled in an inappropriate fashion. Most festivals take these allegations seriously and will act to fire unprofessional security guards.

Politely but firmly object to any violation of your body. Simple statements of fact are probably best

Example, “What you are doing is making me uncomfortable and I you want you to stop. I want to see a supervisor.”

If you are not getting any satisfaction from the festival or the promoters, consider warning others about the bad behavior of this particular fest. (I had a follower suggest tweeting the hashtag #myboobsmybody to call out festivals if they become “Gropefest 2014”)


I am a lawyer, I am just not YOUR lawyer. My Facebook page lists me as a “Fictional Character.” That’s because it’s best to see me as sort of a combination legal resource/legal spirit guide/festival consigliere rather than someone giving you specific legal advice.

So, I can’t give you specific legal advice. But what I can do is provide a resource for you.

The awesome members of the #festlaw crew researched a lengthy brief that might be a good resource for your attorney if you are ever have the misfortune of being arrested for any sort of low level, non-weapon situation. I’ve included it here as a resource. You may reproduce fully and in any manner you or your attorney sees fit.

So, as your Legal Spirit Guide, I advise you, as always, to make good decisions, party smart, and help each other out. YOU are what makes this community so great, and I expect to see you all smiling and hi-fiving me at your next festival.


Why ‘Morrissey was attacked in San Jose’ story is overblown

morrissey-2014By The Festival Lawyer //

Morrissey //
City National Civic – San Jose
May 7th, 2014 //

God Dammit, San Jose. This is why we can’t have nice things.

After months of speculation as to whether he would pull the ultimate Morrissey and cancel the very first show of this tour, Morrissey not only showed up in San Jose but gave an inspired live performance.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Morrissey show without controversy and chaos. During his encore, Moz was performing the song, “One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell” when fans began a stage invasion. To be honest, this isn’t a particularly unexpected occurrence. Although not exactly a Justin Bieber concert, storming the stage pretty much happens at EVERY Morrissey show.

However, this time, there was a “rush and a push” and a figure got thrown off the stage and tumbled backwards into the audience. For a moment, I thought San Jose was going to be the answer to the Rock and Roll trivia question “In what city did idiots accidentally kill Morrissey?” But I quickly realized it was one of the audience members being pushed back into the crowd by security. Morrissey himself had already been whisked backstage.

The show ended in confusion, with the music stopping abruptly and the lights suddenly coming on. I heard some scattered booing and then people slowly filed out. There was a vague feeling among audience members that we had all been cheated somehow. In other words, it was the quintessential Morrissey ending to a Morrissey concert.

You can see some of the chaos here in this fan-made video:

I was told by someone I trust that Morrissey was actually knocked to the ground and that he and the band took the incident quite seriously. So much so that Morrissey stayed in the Green Room until after the venue was totally cleared and he was escorted out to his bus.

The ending was really a shame given how well the show had gone. Morrissey had cancelled the last 6 (!) shows in the Bay Area and had not performed here since 2009. In fact, a whole lot of Bay Area Morrissey fans passed on the show. Most feared another no show and worried that Morrissey was just trying to find a new and more elaborate way to troll us.

Those who risked it and came were rewarded by seeing Morrissey in rare form. His band sounded tight and his voice was wonderful and expressive. He seemed relaxed and …dare I say it?….happy. I don’t mean Pharrell level happy but at least Morrissey level happy.

During his performance of the song “Speedway” it almost felt like Morrissey was trying somehow to apologize to the Bay Area for past snubs. He held a fan-made sign over his heart while reaching out to the crowd and singing, “In my own strange way, I’ve always been true to you.” If not an actual apology it was at least a “It’s a new tour and a new album, let’s move forward” type of moment with the audience.

Morrissey seems to have a more direct political urgency to his shows these days. Playing a song like “The National Front Disco” (about a young man’s drift into racism and extremism) seemed like an especially timely choice given the huge week that racists had last week. (Cliven Bundy, Donald Sterling, random dude throwing banana at soccer player et al)

After singing the final lyrics to “Ganglord” (“Protect and serve, but what they really mean is get back to the ghetto”), Morrissey remarked, “You know it’s true..” He seemed to want to make sure audiences realized that he wrote the song about police brutality in a “non-fiction” kind of way.

But of course, Morrissey’s biggest political cause has always been Animal Rights. He played the Smiths classic, “Meat is Murder” while some pretty shocking images of animals being slaughtered were flashed behind him. But I suppose shocking was the point.

Oddly, fans leaving the venue were greeted by two street vendors selling…wait for it…hot dogs wrapped in bacon. It was like some kind of crazy irony cherry topping off the sundae of the performance. I didn’t order one even though they smelled fucking delicious. It just seemed disrespectful after what I had just seen and heard. (PS did I mention they were wrapped in bacon?…bacon freaking hot dogs!)

Speaking of bacon, Morrissey performed an astonishing version of “Life is a Pigsty”. Morrissey once said that writing songs for The Smiths was like “setting his diary to music.” A song like “Life” has that same kind of personal intensity. At one point, Morrissey implored the audience, “Can you stop the pain?” while falling to his knees as if he couldn’t handle the emotions being expressed. In fact, much of the set list focused on the darker, more brooding songs of his back catalogue.

Morrissey also debuted 3 new songs from his album. The best of the bunch I thought was “World Peace Is None of Your Business”.

Overall, Morrissey was terrific. If I had any complaint, it was about his set list. I almost felt a kind of strain from the audience. It was like we were enjoying what we were hearing but hoping for one of those “I can’t believe he is playing this song” type of moments.

Of course I could be attributing my own feelings to that of the audience. I had already alerted the concert goers around me that I had a short list of about 5 classics songs in my head that would cause me to “lose my shit” if he played them.

Morrissey did open with “Hand in Glove” and later played the beautiful Smiths song “Asleep”. It’s a Smiths song that he has never performed live as a solo artist before. (In terms of nerd love, Smiths fans hearing a new Smiths song being performed live is roughly equivalent to the joy Star Wars fans get upon hearing news of a new Star Wars movie.) But this was very much NOT a “Greatest Hits” type of show.

All in all it was a great night. Unfortunately, it was overshadowed a bit by the actions of a few knuckleheads. As a person who considers music their happy place, it sucks when someone cuts short a great show through their own jackassery. Serious downgrade for the audience.

But as Nick Laquintano, who performs with The Smiths/Morrissey Tribute Band This Charming Band, points out, this kind of thing happens A LOT:

Of course you never want to downplay any incidences of violence at live shows, but I do feel as if I’ve seen much crazier stage invasion situations at past Morrissey shows that didn’t get anywhere near the press attention this one is getting. In particular I remember a show in Modesto back in 2007 that was really scary as people were jumping on stage from all angles and it all ended with Morrissey getting clotheslined by somebody. I don’t remember hearing much about that incident after it happened. Either way it is a shame what happened in San Jose and thank goodness no one got hurt.”

That was my reaction to the incident as well. Headlines like “SHOW CUT SHORT AS MORRISSEY ATTACKED BY FAN ONSTAGE” miss the point entirely. I’m not trying to say that what happened wasn’t serious. This kind of thing shouldn’t happen. Live performers should always be safe. But longtime fans recognize there is a segment of Morrissey fans who are kind of like drunken St. Bernards. They want to show their love, but somehow just end up knocking you down as you open the door and accidentally rip your work suit instead. Dumb.

Fortunately, no one was hurt. And since no one was hurt, I would file this under The Festival Lawyer’s concert rule that, “Any ending to a concert that leaves you with a good story is by definition a good concert.”

Hand in Glove
That’s How People Grow Up
I Have Forgiven Jesus
World Peace Is None of Your Business
I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris
Yes, I Am Blind
The Bullfighter Dies
Life Is a Pigsty
Everyday Is Like Sunday
Earth Is the Loneliest Planet
Trouble Loves Me
Meat Is Murder
First of the Gang to Die
The Youngest Was the Most Loved
I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday
The National Front Disco
One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell

The “Know Your Rights” infographic at a festival


Download the infographic image or PDF //

People often suggest to me that either 1) It’s somehow “Un-American” to talk about your rights when dealing with the police or that 2) Somehow only someone who is intending to break the law would need to understand their legal rights.

As to 1) This is really some dangerous nonsense. In fact this honestly might be one of the craziest ideas that has ever taken root in our Country and as to 2) As I always say “It’s better to know your rights and not need them, than to need your rights and not know them.”

The accompanying article goes into an overview of some 4th Amendment law in more detail. But really the infographic is meant to be shared even without the article. Feel free to share this infographic on Twitter and Facebook. Tag family members or friends who might be going to a music festival. Share your experiences and insights. Do more reading of your own and share that too.

As the very last part of the infographic says
You have rights. Know them.

Tweet & Retweet at Twitter (use the hashtag #KnowYourRights)
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Ed. Note: The Following breaks down the Festival Lawyer’s infographic in more detail:

The “Know Your Rights” infographic – A Police encounter “Flow Chart”

A lot of people write me asking how they should have handled a negative encounter they had with the police at a music festival or rave.

I keep hearing phrases like, “I wish I had known that I didn’t have to make a statement” or “I didn’t know I could say no” or “I wasn’t sure if I had a right to leave or if the cop was detaining me.”

The fact is that you DO have rights in dealing with the police. The “Know Your Rights” infographic is meant to be used as a practical flowchart of what your rights are at every stage of a police encounter.


The 4th Amendment of the Constitution prohibits “unreasonable” searches and seizures. That means you are supposed to have a right as a citizen to freely go about your business without being randomly detained or investigated. In order to “stop” you, an officer first has to have a belief that you were engaged in criminal activity.

There are 3 levels of police “stops”. At each higher level of police encounter, the police officer has to show more justification as to why he stopped you.

Consensual Encounter – A police encounter where you are not the subject of a police investigation and are free to leave. Officers don’t have to legally justify a consensual encounter because you can leave at any time.

Detention – A police encounter where you are temporarily stopped while the police investigate you for a crime. Officers must have a “reasonable suspicion” that you were involved in criminal activity to detain you.

Arrest – Permanently stopped and on your way to jail. An officer must have “Probable Cause” to believe you committed a crime to arrest you.

You know how H20 can be in three different physical states? (Steam, water and ice if you don’t have your 4th grade science notes handy) Well, the 3 levels of police stops are similar. Each of these levels is sort of a different legal “state” of being. And your rights are different in each of these “states”.

There are some big differences of course. In the H20 example you end up with an ice cube. In the police stop final state you end with a cell mate named “Bubba”.

One of the main goals of the infographic is to give you the right questions to ask so that you will know at any time which level of police “state” you are in. (Get it? police state? See what I did there?).


If you are stopped by a police officer, the first question out of your mouth should be, “Am I free to leave?”

Asking this question gets you an immediate answer as to whether you are legally “detained” or free to leave. It also puts you in the best legal position possible should you later want to challenge the legality of the police stopping you. If you challenge your detention, the officer will have to show a “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity based only on the facts existing at the moment you said the phrase and he detained you. Nothing AFTER that moment can be used to justify the stop.

Here is a practical example of the use of the “Am I Free to leave” phrase.


As you can see from the decision tool, if you get a “YES” after you ask “Am I free to leave? The only “action item” is to LEAVE.

Again, there is a legal reason for this. If you don’t leave immediately when given the chance, a judge may later rule that you were free to leave but that you chose to stay. (In other words, it was a “Consensual Encounter”). As I mentioned above, an officer never has to legally justify a “Consensual Encounter”.

In other words, once you get a “YES”, the best and only advice is “You got to get out of there”


A “NO” answer means that you are detained and no longer free to leave. You are enough of a suspect that Marge Gunderson would consider you to be, “fleeing the interview” if you left at this point.

It’s important to remember that officers DON’T have to read you your Miranda rights in a detention. Don’t respond to questions like “What is this?” or “Whose backpack is this? or even something innocent like “How long have you been here?” as they can be legally used against you later.


Some civil libertarians would argue that you legally never have to show a police officer your ID unless you’re driving a vehicle or you are a passenger on a commercial airline. The problem with that is that a number of states have what are called “stop- and-identify” laws. These laws give cops the authority to make you identify yourself if officers have a “reasonable suspicion” to believe criminal activity may be taking place.

As of 2013, 24 states had stop-and-identify laws. Since you already asked to leave and were told “NO”, the officer clearly thinks he has a “reasonable suspicion” to detain you. To me, it’s too risky not to show your ID (and give your correct name) once detained. But as with everything in this article, do your own research for your state laws and make your own best decision.


If you are detained, calmly ask, “Why am I being detained?” This can be valuable if you later want to fight your case in court.The answer the cop gives may limit what he can later claim was the reason for stopping you.

It’s important not to use this question as an excuse to start arguing with the cops. I can’t stress enough the prior advice about not talking to the police. People who talk to the cops end up in a legal situation we call “raptus regaliter” (royally screwed).


In an encounter with the police, the courts require you to keep asking to leave or you may be deemed to be in a “Consensual Encounter”. If the answer is “YES” then leave. If the answer is “NO” you will need to determine if you are under arrest by asking the following:


Legally, if a detention goes on long enough, it becomes an arrest even if the officer doesn’t say the magic words “You are under arrest”. Basically, if you keep asking to leave and the cop doesn’t let you go the courts say you are in the “functional equivalent” of an arrest. I call this a “Cover Band” arrest. The officer may not be calling it an arrest, but it sure looks, feels and sounds like an actual arrest.

Whether the officer is calling it a “detention” or an “arrest” as a practical matter you should make the two statements listed at the bottom of the infographic to fully protect your legal rights.


Cops always make it seem like you’re some kind of a criminal if you express the slightest hesitation about having your property searched without a warrant. You can expect to hear an “If you have nothing to hide, why can’t we search your stuff?” type of response from the cops.

Know this…If the police are asking you permission to search you or your property, it usually means they know they are making an illegal search.

The police may have a legal right to search you without your consent. (For example, if you are arrested and the officer had probable cause for that arrest) But what you’ve done by making this statement is preserve all your legal rights and force the police to show they are legally entitled to search you.


Cops will say that a person invoking their rights in this way has “lawyered up”. In addition to sounding cool, there is a really good legal reason for “lawyering up”.

As I mentioned above, the police only have to read you your Miranda rights if you are under arrest (or a “cover band” equivalent of arrest). The police can legally question you without Miranda rights in a detention.

In Salinas v. Texas (Jun 17, 2013) 133 S. Ct. 2174 the Supreme Court took that rule a step further. The Supreme Court ruled since it’s legal to question you during a detention it’s also fair for a prosecutor to comment on your silence. In other words the prosecutor can say how suspicious it is that you didn’t respond when a cop made a damning accusation to you like, “I know it was you, Fredo!

The Court ruled that your silence in the fact of an accusation can be used against you unless you make it clear that you were affirmatively exercising your right to remain silent and have a lawyer present for questioning.

In other words, you have to SAY OUT LOUD THAT YOU WISH TO REMAIN SILENT…which would make an awesome Newspeak poster in Oceania by the way.


Recording a police encounter can be one of the most helpful things a festival buddy can do to help a friend being arrested. However, it’s also one of those areas where you can easily end up in legal trouble yourself from taping.

I strongly suggest you review your state’s laws and have an understanding of what you need to do legally before attempting to video the police. Here is a good starting place.

If you feel you can safely and legally video tape the encounter I suggest that you say the following if cops instruct you to turn off the camera.

“Officer, I’m not interfering with you in any way. I am just documenting this arrest. This is a public place and I’m entitled to record this.”

While making this statement, I would make a show of backing up and getting out of the way to prove that you are not interfering but just observing.


Why Ultra Music Festival needs a new approach


By the Festival Lawyer //

By just about every objective marker this year’s edition of Ultra Music Festival in Miami was a massive success. Over 165,000 people attended the event. The 2014 Ultra Live Stream of the event had 9.7 million views from more than 190 countries. Financially the festival was thought to bring in about 200 million dollars of revenue for the city of Miami.

However, the festival also had a number of significant problems. First, a security guard was left in serious medical condition after being trampled during a gatecrashing incident. Then, one of the attendees, 21-year-old Adonis Espoco, died after being taken out from the festival when thought to be too drunk and left in a car to “sleep it off.” In addition, over 80 people were arrested and 153 people were treated by paramedics during the event.

Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff both immediately called for Ultra to be banned. In fact, hearings are scheduled on this matter on April 24th. It’s turning into a legal battle (most things these days do) due to the fact that Ultra has a contract that allows them to keep putting on the festival until 2018.

The mayor and his team’s legal argument seems to be that the festival breached their contract with the city by:

1) Ignoring warnings from the police that additional fencing was needed, and
2) Failing to provide adequate security and promoting “drug use, graffiti and other crimes” at the festival.


Ultra’s main response to the criticism so far has been to point out the extent of their security preparations. They had 257 police officers (49 more than last year); 18 undercover detail officers (including Homeland security and DEA officers) and made significant upgrades in terms of safety issues from last year. They also promised to conduct a thorough review of their safety procedures and stated they were open to additional security measures next year.

Some folks have suggested that there are practical changes that could help solve some of Ultra’s problems.

For example, some have argued that Ultra’s main problem is its location. It is extremely cool that a major music festival is located in the downtown area. And that location is part of why the festival has such a direct impact financially on the city. But having the festival in the middle of the downtown core creates all kinds of problems that would be avoided by having the festival at a more remote location.

Others have said that Ultra’s “all-ages” admittance policy is to blame. These people argue that Ultra would be a less chaotic, safer event if it were made into an 18 and older or 21 and older event.

These are all things that should be discussed. But neither the Mayor nor Ultra’s proposal answers the real question. How do we make future Ultra festivals a better, happier festival for both attendees and city residents?

In other words, is it possible to change the “culture” of the festival itself?


There are several problems with just telling festivals to “beef up security” whenever an incident happens. For one thing, this year’s Ultra already had numerous complaints of rude, inappropriate, unprofessional or overly aggressive behavior by security officers. Also, adding more security by itself just adds to an “Us vs. Them” mentality between partygoers and police officers. (Remember all the chaos that happened at Lightning in a Bottle last year when Riverside’s “Special Investigation Bureau” decided to start doing undercover drug sales and arresting attendees?)

Oh and by the way, it doesn’t work. I mean, is there anyone out there who seriously thinks adding 10, 20 or a 100 more police officers will keep all illegal drugs out of Ultra next year?

As I’ve suggested in prior articles, I think the answer is to address the issue of drugs head-on. By that I mean integrating drug education and a “harm reduction” approach to the issue of drug use at festivals.


“Harm Reduction” is an alternative public health philosophy that encourages policy choices at raves and fests that reduce the risks associated with the use of MDMA or other drugs. The idea is to recognize the reality that drugs are going to be present at the modern music festival and to provide drug education, drug testing and other resources to help people make smarter choices.

Harm reduction is the norm in European festivals and has the advantage of a proven track record of success in making festivals safer. So why isn’t it the norm here?

Well, one thing that the current drug laws are excellent at is making promoters and organizers extremely nervous about taking any steps that might be seen as “encouraging drug use”.

Instead festivals have to play the, “I’m shocked, absolutely shocked that drugs are being used in here” game like Captain Renault being shocked by the gambling going on in Rick’s Café.

In fact, I was at a conference not too long ago where an insurance lawyer mentioned as part of his talk that basically it was better from an insurance liability standpoint to have someone die at your festival and be able to point to your “zero tolerance” drug policies than to open yourself up to criminal and civil liability by talking openly about drugs and testing them. My reaction can be seen below:


In other words, these types of changes won’t come about unless the festival and Electronic Music Community itself demands that harm reduction services be made a part of every festival that would benefit from it.


In the last week I’ve had the opportunity to exchange ideas with a coalition of groups who are coming together to push for positive change in how we handle the issues of drugs, alcohol and personal safety at music festivals.

The group issued a press release today calling for the following:
1) Integrating “event industry safety best practices” into future festivals
2) Addressing alcohol and other drug use through education and onsite harm reduction rather than by just increasing law enforcement and security, and
3) Encouraging festivalgoers themselves to be responsible for their own and other attendee’s safety.

As the coalition stated in its press release:

Our coalition has come together to advocate for the EDM community. Large festivals are a crucial way for young people to gather together, socialize, and hear the music they love,” says Monica Salazar of the Electronic Music Alliance, a group that promotes social involvement among EDM fans. “Partygoers, the promoters and the host city all have a responsibility to work together to create safe and fun environments.

Coalition members include the Electronic Music Alliance, The Drug Policy Alliance, DanceSafe, MARS, The Zendo Project, AFP Creative and some guy named The Festival Lawyer.

Please take a minute to read the coalition’s press release. Share it with your festival crew, reshare it on social media and lend the coalition your ideas and support.


Honestly, what happened to the security guard in this case is inexcusable. But if you were on social media or watched the Ultra webcast you know that it was only part of what created the overall impression that the entire festival was a chaotic mess.

Some pictures of pretty over the top behavior went viral on social media. (Writer’s note – No I’m not going to link to those pictures. Suffice to say they were in the “Caligula would tell you to tone it down” category of photographs.) Also, the webcast itself captured a lot of images of pretty crazy behavior by festivalgoers.

You’ve heard me preach in this column before that I strongly believe that safety at a festival/rave is everyone’s responsibility. Not just the promoters or the organizers, but the attendees themselves. I am a huge fan of promoting positivity and “good vibes” among our fellow festivalgoers.

If you’ve been to a few festivals you know how important the “vibe” of the crowd can be. A fun, positive, enthusiastic crowd that is looking out for each other can make even a mediocre festival great. On the other hand, a crowd that is consistently determined to get as crazy as possible on drugs, fight, and otherwise create mayhem makes even a great festival ultimately not worth saving.

So that is why the coalition is also calling on attendees to take a “Party Pledge”. It calls on Festivalgoers to engage in responsible festival going and to encourage others to take this philosophy of caring for others and positivity to ALL festivals.

The pledge reads as follows:

We promise to look out for our festival buddies, and we support festivals that implement harm reduction practices. We promise to respect the clubs, venues, and festival grounds we use, and respect the staff that manages them. We are committed to calling out behavior that promotes an unsafe or uncomfortable environment for others. We have zero tolerance for violence. We want our community to be safe, proud, and fun, and welcome in cities and venues worldwide!!


If you’ve read any of my past columns you know that I think that some of the best aspects of human nature (play, inclusion, joy, love) are demonstrated at festivals and raves.

People sometimes think that being “responsible” is somehow intruding on their fun. But really it is just a recognition that we are all in this together and that together we can make things better and have more fun. In fact, I call making a commitment to be responsible for your friend’s safety at a festival the “Golden Rule” of being a good Festival Buddy.

Ultimately, we need to change the culture of these events. Ultra should stay in Miami. But a better, safer Ultra that promotes positivity and fun. If you believe in the same thing you can take the pledge here.


The Orwells’ joyful anarchy underscores a band on the rise


By The Festival Lawyer //

The Orwells with Twin Peaks and Criminal Hygiene //
Slim’s — San Francisco
Sunday March 23, 2014 //

The Orwells ended their show at Slim’s last Sunday night in a fit of joyful anarchy. Vocalist Mario Cuomo (yeah you heard me, Mario Cuomo) ended the show by climbing the scaffolding at the right side of the stage while belting out Iggy Pop’s “I Wanna Be Your Dog”.

Beneath him, the crowd was going bananas. In the mosh pit below Cuomo, I counted 2 Descendents (!) t-shirts, a half a dozen crowd surfers and so many people were stage diving that I had to check the date on my phone to confirm that this was in fact, a Sunday night.

You may not have heard of The Orwells. If you’ve heard anything, it’s probably something about how young they are. Vocalist Cuomo, his cousin Dominic Corso (guitar), twins Grant (bass) and Henry Brinner (drums), and friend Matt O’Keefe (guitar) have been playing together since late 2009. They’ve already had quite an epic 2014. Earlier this year they had an appearance on Letterman that went viral and their set at SXSW was one of the festival’s most talked about performances. Oh and did I mention they were in the 9th grade in 2009? And that they rushed their high school graduations just last year so they could become rock stars? …Amazing.

The band opened with “Other Voices” which, besides rocking hard, has this very interesting low fi, fuzzy, 60s garage band feel to it. A lot of the band’s material feels like it would be right at home on one of those Nuggets compilation CDs, right between The Electric Prunes and The Knickerbockers. The band even worked a tiny portion of “Build Me Up Buttercup” by The Foundations into their set.

Right before their show in San Francisco, the band tweeted: “Is This It …is equivalent to death…..it’s just not fair.” It’s clear that the band loves the Strokes. But at the same time they don’t ape them. A song like “Who Needs You” has a fantastic Strokes kind of sound to it, but in a bashed up, garage band way. Other show highlights included “Mallrats La La La” and “In My Bed”.

Singer Cuomo gets most of the attention onstage because he is a maniac live. At times he is falling on the stage and screaming. Other times he stands completely still and stares into the crowd as if his mind is a million miles away. But make no mistake, the Orwells aren’t a backup band for Cuomo. This band is tight and has clearly learned a ton from their hectic touring schedule. They played a crisp, no nonsense hour-long set that left the crowd happy yet wanting more.

Within minutes of the show ending, the band was already on the floor, taking pictures and hanging out with fans. The crowd had a sweaty, happy vibe as if we had all been in the stands together and then collectively ran onto the floor after our team had hit the winning basket.

As we filed out, a young kid next to me asked, “Wasn’t that great? I don’t get why they aren’t bigger? Shouldn’t they be a huge band?”

“They really might be soon,” I told him.

10 music festival must-haves to elevate the experience

1.MUSIC-FEST-BRING-POSTBy The Festival Lawyer //

With festival season starting, I decided to ask my Twitter and Facebook followers (and of course some of my favorite “Festie” writers and bloggers) the following question:

“What one item did you not know to bring to your first music festival that you always bring now?”

I took the best of their advice (and a few of my own tips) to give you the following 10 items that are guaranteed to make your next festival safer, more comfortable and more fun.



A few years ago, I stood about three feet from Dave Navarro’s amp for an entire show at The Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles. For several weeks I had massive ear ringing and buzzing. I also said, “What?” so many times my friends were at the, “Say what again, say what again. I dare you, I double dare you, motherfucker” level of exasperation with me.

Fortunately, my hearing returned. But ever since then, I’ve considered earplugs an essential festival item for both safety and comfort. Most people who say they “don’t like” earplugs have only tried those cheap drug store foam ones. Those don’t do much more than muffle and muddy the sound.

High quality earplugs (I personally like @earpeace, but there are lots of choices) are only about $12-15. They provide a nice level of hearing protection without feeling like you’re missing the live sound experience of the show. Believe it or not, at certain shows earplugs make the sound better. Get all your festival gear here.



One of the most common issues at festivals is how to transport your needed gear easily. I asked Molly Kish (Media Relations Manager, Showbams) what makes her such a “fan” (see what I did there?) of fanny packs.

Fanny packs are the quintessential festival must-have. Trumping the bulky backpack or burdensome purse, fanny packs are the hands free alternative to carrying around your belongings all day and keep you from becoming the resident mule amongst your festival going friends. Allowing enough room for your wallet, camera, phone, sunscreen, chapstick or any other personal items you’ll want within immediate reach, fanny packs keep your possessions conveniently stationed on your hips throughout the day (becoming nearly unnoticeable by the end of your festival experience).



Like the fanny pack, a Camelbak is another easy way to store your keys, wallet and other valuables at a festival. It also has the added advantage of keeping you hydrated while avoiding long lines for refillable water or the high cost of bottled water. Dehydration can turn from a comfort issue to a safety issue really quickly. This is especially true at music fests where people are partying hard or are dancing in the middle of the desert in the afternoon.

There are entire reddit threads and message boards devoted to arguing the topic of which Camelbak is the “best” for festivals or raves. This should come as no surprise since the internet was pretty much invented for people to have a place to argue with ferocity and utter moral certainty about things that are subjective opinions. I won’t enter that fray except to say that this model of Camelbak is super popular. See designs of rucksack backpacks here.



The average festival porta potty looks like something they would show Piper on the first episode of “Orange is the New Black” to scare her about how awful prison life is going to be.

Because of this, a lot of folks wrote me to remind people to bring things like baby wipes, packs of tissue, hand sanitizer or their own toilet paper to try to make the situation better.

(Bonus tip for the ladies: Cardboard “p-mate” disposable female urination assist devices lets women go to the bathroom standing up. Find them here.)



Tucker Gumber, aka “The Festival Guy”, attended something like 20 festivals last year. I figured he would be a good guy to ask the “things to bring to a music festival” question.

People go to festivals to hang out with their friends while enjoying world class music. The more festivals you go to, the more friends you make, the harder it is to see everyone. There is one thing that will determine your ability to meet up with whoever you want, whenever you want. Your cell phone battery. If your phone dies in the middle of the festival you will often find yourself searching through thousands of people looking for your crew. (PS: always set a meeting point) This frustrating situation can be easily avoided by carrying a cell phone power bank (I recommend Mophie). When you carry extra battery life you will not only avoid the stress of having a dead phone, you will now have the ability to help other people whose phone has died. Cell phone service is not perfect at festivals (although I did have service at 16 of 20 festivals I went to last year with Verizon) so make sure to be very precise with meetup locations and time stamp your texts.

(Bonus Tip: Tucker and the rest of the Festevo crew are only weeks away from their Festival App “Festevo” going live. When it does, it will DEFINITELY make this list. Find out more about their app here.)



A lot of festivals take place in crazy hot environments where shade is at a premium. Sunscreen, sunglasses and chapstick are all “musts” at these kind of fests.

I asked bloggers and festival experts “The Festival Twins” if they had any other tips for folks trying not get “fried” at a music festival.

If it’s a camping festival, a canopy is an essential addition to your campsite. We learned the hard way, showing up to our first Coachella without one and paying the price for it. Shortly after sunrise the inside of our tent was super bright and roasting (no sleeping in!). During the day when we were at our camp we would all huddle under a small blanket we had strung up between our car and tent (we didn’t all fit underneath it).

Canopies not only offer shade from the sun and reflect heat, they also shelter from the rain and wind, and offer privacy. They are also a great way to distinguish your camp site from those around you, by attaching siding to them, adding a sign or flag to the top, or simply just by color (Hey! We’re the blue canopy between the red and white one!).



Most music festivals involve a ton of walking. Probably THE most common items that people recommended were worn in, comfortable shoes. I asked Pete Mauch (Contributor, Showbams) if he had any other tips to keep a long day of walking from turning into a disaster.

At Bonnaroo 2005 in Manchester, Tennessee on the fourth and final day, I was hobbling around like I had been riding a horse for weeks. From that day forward I swore to myself that I would never go to a festival without my precious Gold Bond. Being able to walk long distances comfortably is key to having a great experience at a festival, especially a larger scale one like Bonnaroo or Coachella where you could be walking for a good while between stages and your campsite. I’ve helped out many aching friends who were not as prepared so please share your Gold Bond with others.



I highly recommend you keep a few “safety” apps on your phone. Since there isn’t a “Festival Lawyer” app (yet), I highly recommend you download and bring the DanceSafe app. Tons of great drug safety tips and emergency care information are available there.



One of the easiest ways to make new friends at a music festival is to share an item your festival neighbor forgot to bring (a lighter, handwipes etc.). Personally, I like to hand out candy or gum. There are certain fests where dust is everywhere. When your mouth is dry, your lungs are uncomfortable, and your breath is questionable, someone handing you a stick of gum is sort of your new hero.

I also love to give away cheap “fireworks” (refraction) glasses. It’s a close call between cats and myself about who likes lasers more. Fortunately, man has again defeated the animal kingdom by inventing this new technology. (These diffraction glasses make lasers look freaking great is what I am saying.)

You can find cheap paper diffraction glasses or nicer ones here.



I’ve written before about how much more fun your festival is when you spread positivity and good vibes to your fellow audience members.

One of the absolute best ways you can spread the good vibes is by wearing a funny t-shirt or something else that says, “let’s party”. But if you really want to take it to the next level you can wear a memorable costume. I asked Eamon Armstrong (Social Media Manager – Fest 300) for the origin story of “Purpleganda.”

In 2006 I went to Coachella in a baseball cap and a polo shirt. I thought of it like a concert where you go with a friend to watch other people play music. Eight years later festivals have become an immersive experience for me and how I present myself is part of how I participate.

A memorable outfit isn’t just an upgrade for you, it upgrades the whole festival. Your style makes the atmosphere of the fest more alive for your friends and other festies. Your silliness makes you more approachable. People want to compliment you because you look awesome. You say thanks, making them feel great. I personally love to just walk around the grounds telling people just how terrific they look!

From some funky tights to a full DIY light-suit, your costume makes the surreal world of the festival that much more magical. Plus if you ever get overwhelmed by the experience you can simply retreat into the role you’ve created. In fact, sometimes the costume makes you free to lose your mind a little.

OK, festies! What other festival items do you now consider “essential”? Be sure to let your fellow festivalgoers know in the comments section about any other festival “upgrades” that you love and want to share. Plus, see which are some of the top festivals in the world here.


Why I will still go and see Morrissey in San Jose (Or at least buy tickets and see if he shows up)


By the Festival Lawyer //

So Morrissey just announced the start of another tour. This one kicks off in San Jose May 7th at City National Civic.

As you might expect, the announcement was not exactly greeted with enthusiasm in the Bay Area. Headlines like “Morrissey is pretending to play the Bay Area again” or “Morrissey announces tour dates he will probably later cancel” were the most common reaction.

You can’t really blame people for being pissed. Morrissey has cancelled six consecutive shows in the Bay Area. The last time Morrissey actually played a scheduled gig in the Bay Area was in 2009 in Oakland. Although some of last year’s cancellations were due to health issues, what really pissed people off was Morrissey playing shows either right before or right after the dates he missed for health reasons. It seemed less like he was sick and more like a deliberate snub to the Bay Area. In fact, a local SF store actually started selling “Fuck Moz” signs.

Comments on social media sites were varied, and ranged from, “No I won’t be buying Morrissey tickets” to “Oh HELL NO I won’t be buying Morrissey tickets.”

So having said all that, why am I telling people to “Buy” when it comes to the Morrissey stock market when everyone else is telling their investors, “Sell”?

It’s the start of the tour

Unless Morrissey is trying to invent new ways to mess with us, it just seems super unlikely that he would cancel the very first show of the tour. Also, the first show of a tour is pretty exciting. What’s on the playlist? Which Smiths songs will make the cut? Any new stuff from the upcoming album? And let’s not forget about the bragging rights that come from seeing the first show of a tour.

It’s in San Jose

Morrissey hasn’t performed in San Jose since the 90s. Because of how long it has been and how far south it is, he may not even realize that he is playing in the Bay Area. Plus, if Morrissey cancels we can all head over to Original Joe’s and have a late night dinner and bitch session.

He is one of rock’s great icons

Despite all the drama, Morrissey remains a huge rock icon. Music magazine NME called Morrissey “one of the most influential rock artists ever”. In 2004, Pitchfork Media called him “one of the most singular figures in Western popular culture from the last twenty years.”

A few years back the BBC produced a show called “The Importance of Being Morrissey”. If you haven’t seen it, it is less a documentary and more a 45 minute love letter from the people of England. Suffice to say that most stars have to be dead before reaching the level of hero worship people have for him.

You need to change your perception of what a “ticket” is

Most people would define a “ticket” as a contract to see a certain performer at a certain time perform for you. Morrissey concerts are more akin to a “Morrissey Lottery” than a traditional ticket. The fun part of buying a ticket to a Morrissey concert is that you literally have no idea what will happen. I have a friend who was walking into one of his shows when it was abruptly cancelled. I have another friend who went to a bar after Morrissey cancelled a show and saw Moz there having the time of his life. I’ve been at shows where Morrissey was close to openly fighting with the audience.

On the other hand, he can be a superb live performer when he feels like it. When I saw him in 2012, he whipped the mic around like a pro, sounded great and mixed older and new material with ease. When security kept the crowd from coming on stage, Morrissey announced “It’s your stage, don’t let them tell you what to do.” The response from the audience was close to what I expect you might see from one of those revivalist church in the south. It was fantastic.

2014 could be Morrissey’s year

I asked Tom Hastings why in the world any fan would go see Morrissey after the way he has treated the Bay Area. Tom has been a Morrissey fan for 25 years, and has seen over 50 Morrissey shows. (He also has a cameo in the Coachella documentary and his own chapter in the book, The Day I Met Morrissey.) He thinks 2014 will be a big year for Morrissey.

I am still going to take my chances and get these tickets to see a true legend, an icon really, perform live. I think 2014 is going to be Morrissey’s comeback year. He recently released his critically acclaimed autobiography and he is recording his new album. Moreover, his health problems seem to be behind him now. I can’t wait to see this show, especially on opening night…not knowing the setlist and all. I predict this show will sell out FAST! ~VIVA MOZ!

The idea of a Morrissey comeback may seem crazy to you. But remember, this is a guy who has had at least 4 major comebacks in his career. (Example, in 2004 he went from having no record deal to a top ten album in the UK and top eleven on Billboard.) So a comeback is not at all farfetched.

The Smiths aren’t getting back together anytime soon

Listen, we have to collectively let the dream of a Smiths reunion go. They’ve supposedly been offered insane sums to do it, from UK festivals, and Moz just won’t. Coachella makes a try at a Smiths reunion every year. It’s not happening. The fact is that if you ever want to hear and sing along with classics like “How Soon is Now” or “There is a Light that never goes out”, it’s going to have to be at a Morrissey concert.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking that Morrissey is a tribute band or will be doing some kind of “Greatest Hits” reunion tour. Remember, he had a critically acclaimed and commercially successful album as recently as 2009. This is a chance to see a great live performer working through a few decades of great material.

(Speaking of tribute bands, if the Blank Club doesn’t book “This Charming Band” for a combination “After party and/or cancellation party” that same night they are crazy.)

The bottom line is that if you are a fan it’s probably worth the risk of getting burned in exchange for the chance that you will see something truly special. Or as Tom Hastings put it, “if you haven’t experienced a Moz cancellation, and then taken a chance on seeing him again, you are not a true fan.”


Presale: February 20 from 10am to 10pm. Use password ARSENAL to buy tickets. Tickets for general public on sale Friday, February 21 at 9am.

Get tickets here.

Marijuana & DUIs: What You Can Learn from Justin Bieber Getting Busted


By The Festival Lawyer //

Colorado and Washington both recently legalized recreational sales of marijuana. Oregon and several other states say they want to be next. In fact, a few recent polls show that a clear majority of Americans now support legalization.

I’ve been meaning to write about marijuana and DUI laws for a while now. And then last week, Justin Bieber got arrested for a “Marijuana DUI” in Miami.

I know a lot of you probably didn’t hear about Bieber’s arrest because it was of interest only to a small group of legal scholars like me. (Writer’s note: I wish someone would hurry up and invent a sarcasm font)

Although Bieber had a very low blood alcohol, his blood was positive for Xanax and marijuana and it appears they will prosecute him based on those test results.

Here is a link to Bieber’s arrest reports and toxicology results to get you up to speed.

One thing that’s clear from this case is that those Fast and the Furious films would have been super boring if they were filmed in Canada. I mean, seriously Beebs, a Lamborghini and Ferrari racing at speeds of between 25 and 60 MPH?? C’mon, the average AMERICAN driver normally hits speeds of 25 to 60 MPH just backing up to get a parking space closer to the gym.

Anyway, on with the tips:

TIP #1Understand the legal standard for “Driving Stoned”

California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) makes it illegal to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of ANY drug whether legal or illegal. To put it another way, you can be busted for driving while under the influence of Nyquil, or Ambien or prescription pain pills or from any other drug including marijuana.

Right now, there is not a standard THC level (like the .08 standard on alcohol) that tells you what amount of THC in your system makes it illegal to drive. Instead, the legal standard is whether the THC in your system has impaired you to the point you can no longer operate your motor vehicle safely and with “the caution characteristic of a sober person.

By the way, I know someone is going to be tempted to comment that “Marijuana is not a drug, it comes from nature.” Two things about this:

1. Legally it is a drug.

2. If you ingest a substance and it suddenly makes you think Taco Bell food tastes great that’s definitely a drug.

TIP #2Understand why no one really knows what “Stoned Driving” legally means

To understand the above legal standard you kind of have to know a bit about the scientific debate going on as to the point a driver using THC is so impaired that he or she is unable to operate a motor vehicle safely.

I started to summarize this scientific debate for you and then I remembered the old saying:

“A picture is worth a thousand words. But a video of a woman who drives BETTER the more she smokes pot is worth ten times that.”

The point is that the science on marijuana intoxication is murky at best. Frankly, there is a lot of disagreement as to what point you are “too high” to safely drive. Therefore a lot of states are moving to impose an objective THC level that would trigger an automatic DUI.

TIP #3Why a “.5 Nanograms” standard might mean some innocent folks get charged with a DUI

In 2012, Washington passed a law that set the threshold for marijuana DUIs at 5 Nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. California and Colorado have both rejected similar laws but there are continuing efforts to get every state that has legal or medicinal marijuana to impose a “5 Nanograms = DUI” limit.

Anyone who smokes marijuana either medicinally or recreationally should have concerns about how this law may impact them.

Unlike alcohol, THC can stay in your bloodstream for several weeks or even up to a month. Therefore someone might smoke marijuana legally a few days prior to driving, get stopped and be over the “legal THC limit” when tested.

In other words, they might get a DUI for having a certain THC level in their system even though they were cold sober when driving. Responsible marijuana users (i.e. people who smoke but don’t want to drive “stoned”) could potentially be charged with DUI even though the marijuana in their system was not affecting their driving.

So how do you protect yourself?

TIP #4Don’t drive with a “Bieber Cocktail”

As I mentioned, court documents show that Bieber’s toxicology report came back with a very low blood alcohol (.01) but positive for marijuana (THC) and Xanax.

It is never a good idea to smoke and then immediately get in a car and drive. And it’s even more dangerous to drive while on a “drug cocktail.”

Studies show that mixing marijuana with alcohol or other drugs radically increase the chances you are impaired and unable to drive safely. As a practical matter, it’s also way more likely that you will be prosecuted when you have a mixture of alcohol and marijuana in your system. As we just said, it’s never a good idea to smoke and then immediately drive. But it’s an exceptionally bad idea to mix different substances before getting behind the wheel. Don’t do it.

TIP #5Exercise your right to remain silent

In my very first article “What to do if the police stop you at a music festival” I tried to point out how vital it is to understand and exercise your right to remain silent.

Since then, a recent case (Salinas v. Texas) has made this advice even more important. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that just remaining silent may not be enough. Instead, the burden is on you to show that you are affirmatively exercising your rights and choosing to remain silent.

In other words, you have to say out loud that you wish to remain silent … which would make an awesome Newspeak poster in Oceania by the way.

As insane as that ruling sounds, you need to say out loud you don’t want to make a statement. I suggest using the phrase, “Officer, I am choosing to remain silent. I want a lawyer.”

Clearly neither Bieber nor any of his entourage has time to read The Festival Lawyer’s column due to Bieber’s very busy egg throwing, shitty drag racing, peeing in janitor’s mop buckets schedule. If he had, Bieber would have known not to confess to cops that he had been “smoking in the studio all night” when he was asked why he smelled like pot.

TIP #6Don’t take the marijuana swab test

The Los Angeles Police Department recently got a grant to begin using a new type of “mouth swab” that will test for the presence of seven drugs including THC. You should expect other police agencies to start giving these roadside tests.

Remember that if you are arrested the only chemical test you must give is the final one given at the station or jail. If you don’t take that chemical test, you will face an immediate, no exceptions, one-year suspension of your driver’s license.

All other “Field Sobriety Exercises” and preliminary screening devices like the PAS (an alcohol screening device used at the scene) or “marijuana mouth swabs” are completely consensual. In other words, you are not required by law to take any of these tests. Don’t agree to take any of them.

TIP #7Don’t smoke in your car unless you want it searched

Not to put a damper on your hot box party, but there is a case out there called People v. Hua (2008) 158 Cal. App. 4th 1027 which says that cops can search your car based solely on smelling the odor of marijuana coming from it.

In a state where there is legal or medicinal marijuana your attorney may be able to argue that this case does not apply. But honestly, why put yourself in that situation? You are making every cop at least tempted to search your car and see what else you have in the car. Avoid smoking in your car. (I see you, guy using a vape pen at the stoplight. Not cool.)

TIP #8Don’t let your car become a “Rolling Probable Cause”

I’ve talked before about “rolling probable cause.” This is the slang term cops and DAs use for the fact that a minor vehicle code violation gives an officer the legal right to stop a car and investigate the occupants.

You should pay particular attention to this issue. Don’t attract attention to your car. Keep your car in good running order with current registration and all your lights and brake lamps in good working order.

When driving, keep your driver’s license, insurance and car registration handy and in an easily accessible location. Many officers will write in their report that you “fumbled for your wallet” or “appeared confused about what documents you had” in an effort to prove you were impaired.

Also, keep your medical marijuana card current and in a secure location for those who live in a medical marijuana state.

TIP #9Don’t consent to a search of your car

One of the things cops love to do during a traffic stop is to ask if you will agree to let them search your car. If you hesitate they will often go with the old, “If you don’t have anything to hide why don’t you let us search?” approach.

Cops also like to do this thing where they name some crazy thing they couldn’t possibly find and that is the only reason they want to search. “C’mon, just need to make sure you don’t have any grenade launchers or anthrax here … har har.”

You might be tempted to respond with a “I ain’t passed the bar, but I know a little bit … enough that you won’t illegally search my shit” response.

But really, there is only one acceptable answer to what to do if the police ask you for consent to search your car.

“Officer, I am not giving you consent to search myself or my vehicle.”

TIP #10Stay calm and don’t argue with the cops

If you read the part of Bieber’s report as to why the cuffs go on, it’s actually kind of interesting. Bieber continually asks, “Why the fuck are you doing this?” and “What the fuck did I do? Why did you stop me?” In fact, the cops first put the cuffs on because Bieber refuses to keep his hands on the car and generally refuses to cooperate in the case.

Remember The Festival Lawyer way. Stay calm, polite and respectful. Don’t give the officer attitude. At the same time, firmly assert your CONSTITUTIONAL rights. These include your right to remain silent and your right to refuse a search of your vehicle. Know your rights and politely (yet firmly) assert them.

10 safety tips women should know when going to their first music festival

10-safety-tipsPhoto by Marc Fong // Written by The Festival Lawyer //

In my life, I have four cool older sisters, the awesome Mrs. Festival Lawyer and a rad little feminista daughter. As Hank Moody would say, “I’m a big fan of women, I have all their albums.”

Lately, I’ve started to wonder how safe festivals and raves are for women. In 2013, there was a report of a sexual assault of a 16 year old girl at Electric Zoo.  Two sexual assaults were reported at the Made in America Festival. Three men allegedly sexually assaulted a teenage girl at Stagecoach in 2012.

Because of that, I thought it might make sense to ask several long time female festivalgoers and ravers what tips they would give to a woman attending her first event. Before we get to the tips we need to discuss the topic of “victim blaming.”  As Leandra Pelonquin, former director of the YWCA Rape clinic explains,  

One of my co-workers was presenting to a college class and said “I’ve gone up to rooms alone with a guy. I have never been raped because I have never been with a rapist.” It is not about the victim, the perpetrator makes that choice. Most men don’t rape, those that do usually have multiple victims throughout their life…Rape is a societal problem, not a self-help issue.

In other words, none of these tips are meant to put the responsibility on women not to get sexually assaulted. Instead, this article is meant to start a dialogue on what we ALL can do to make sure that every festival or rave is as fun, safe and positive for everyone.


Tip #1 – Go in a group and within that group have a “Festival Buddy” who always has your back

Miami’s “Lady Casa” (@ladycasa305) promotes higher consciousness, good vibes, safety and PLUR through her group PLUR Warriors. Since she has been in the EDM scene for more than ten years, she often acts as a role model and inspiration to younger ravers. Her biggest advice?

Go in a group! I’ve been to a few festivals alone but that was after raving for more than 10 years. As a newbie I highly recommend women go in a group. And within the group have at least one person that you are ALWAYS with! …Getting lost happens. I recommend finding and sticking with a GROUP OF GIRLS if you lose your group. Ravers are friendly and often welcoming. Don’t be afraid to tag along with another GROUP.

(Writers note: Totally agree. In fact, I call having a “Festival Buddy” one of the “Golden Rules” of going to festivals.)  

Tip #2 – If you are a solo female make the crowd aware of your presence 

The “Festival Girl” (@thefestivalgirl) writes a blog specializing in up to the minute live festival coverage (find it here). Because many of her friends live abroad, she often goes to events by herself. She points out the importance of solo fest-goers letting the crowd be aware of their presence so they can assist if there is trouble:

The first thing I do when I arrive to my campsite at a camping festival is visit the neighboring tents and introduce myself. I want people near me to know I’m there. That way, if I go missing, it might occur to someone to say, ‘Hey, where did that girl next door go.’ 

Tip #3Watch out for other people in the crowd even if they are not your “Festival Buddy”

In crowds, there is a psychological phenomenon called “Diffusion of Responsibility.”  Because there are so many people present, everyone assumes that “someone else” in the crowd is already calling the police or helping. Ironically, that means having a LOT of people around you makes it LESS likely that someone will get you help.

The Festival Girl reminds us how important it is for everyone to look out for each other at a festival”

I definitely think it’s important for people in groups to acknowledge solo travelers and extend themselves as surrogate buddies. The crowd can either act as a screen, unintentionally covering up violence against solo fest-goers (especially women), or it can act as a protective entity for those same people…My wish is that fest-goers broaden their collective vision beyond their individual groups of friends and care about everyone in the scene…we’re all in this together.

Tip #4Prepare an “exit strategy” and have a plan for what to do if there is an emergency

Because of of the noise and the chaos of a rave or festival, Lady Casa thinks it’s important to have a designated meeting place and working phone in case of an emergency.

Have an idea of the layout. The entrance, exit, medical tents, water vendors, stages, etc. … It’s critical to have a meeting spot for the end in case you are lost from the group. (Also) charge your cell phone to 100% and if possible take a battery pack case for extra charge. Have at least one number in the group memorized in case you lose your phone. Make sure everyone in the group is accounted for when you make it to the meeting spot at the end.

(Several of my followers point out that if you turn off your WiFi and data on your phone, the phone won’t drain your battery looking for service yet still allows you to receive emergency calls and texts. Also, walkie-talkies seem to be coming on in a big way at festivals.)  

Tip #5Be aware of men looking for “vulnerable” women at raves or fests

Amy Raves” writes about harm reduction and personal safety in her column, “Safer Raving by Amy”. Amy thinks it’s important for women to know their limits, go to raves with people they trust and NEVER to leave with a stranger.

I think festivals should include group/female safety in their info packets. We want to trust/love everyone at a festival but the truth is not everyone is honorable. Predators know these festivals are perfect breeding grounds….some guys, certainly not most, will see vulnerability in a (drunk or high) girl and take advantage of that. Some come to raves looking for girls that are vulnerable.

One of the points of an article like this is to talk about how we as a festival community react when we see a guy treating a drunk or high girl the same way a lion eyes a wounded gazelle. Depending on the situation you may need to get involved. You may need to ask HER (not the guy) if she is okay, get her friends involved or get your friends or staff involved in the situation.  

Tip #6Men need to understand that rape includes sex with someone who is too drunk to consent to the act

I have found that there is a real lack of accurate information as to what the law actually says when it comes to sex with someone who is intoxicated. In fact, California Penal Code Section 261 defines the various types of rape and includes any situation where:

A person is prevented from resisting by any intoxicating or anesthetic substance, or any controlled substance, and this condition was known, or reasonably should have been known by the accused

California law makes it illegal to have sex with someone who is unconscious.  

(Sidenote – hopefully your reaction to this piece of information is “No Shit”) On the other hand it’s not rape when someone consents freely and willfully but alcohol or drugs caused them to make a decision they later regret. 

Okay, but at what point is someone too drunk to give “Legal Consent?” Legally consent means “positive cooperation” and “an exercise of free will.” In other words, the law asks if the person was sober enough to understand all the “consequences of the act” and acted freely and voluntarily. If not, the law considers it a rape.

Tip #7Support festivals and raves that promote safety and positivity

Amy Raves points out that just having a prominent volunteer force (Like Insomniac’s “Ground Control” program) can do wonders for the vibe and safety of an event. 

I love what Insomniac does with its Ground Control program. It’s amazing to see all the purple shirts wandering around, checking on everyone, giving them water & especially looking out for girls that look vulnerable. As a woman, it’s very comforting. Adequate security is important especially with frequent patrolling of the darker corners and nooks of any grounds. These are the places women tend to get cornered.

Tip #8 – Call out festivals or raves when you see safety issues for women

In the same way we give kudos to festivals, I think we need to call out festivals when we see something that we feel doesn’t address a woman’s safety issues.

I was at Austin City Limits last year and I saw a woman laying down with no one seeming to be with her.  She was semi-conscious and occasionally vomiting. Mrs. Fest Lawyer tracked down someone who appeared to be “in charge” and we explained the situation. 

He looked at me and said “Just give her some water and keep an eye on her” and started to walk off.  We had to seriously break down for him that we were showing him a semi-conscious person, lying alone and possibly in medical distress before he would call for help. 

I love ACL. Clearly their decision to cancel parts of the 2nd weekend this year shows they care about their audience’s safety. But this kind of thing really isn’t acceptable at a major music festival.

(FYI, I did give them several chances to address what they think may have happened here. For whatever reason, they have chosen not to. If they do comment on this story, I will of course post their response.) 

Tip #9Don’t take drinks or drugs from strangers

As Lady Casa says,

Festival culture is rich and includes positive and negative influences. Do NOT take drugs offered by strangers or new friends, watch your drinks and only drink from your own new water bottle!

A young woman’s story of how she was allegedly drugged by a stranger at Outside Lands in 2012 went viral recently. It’s a good reminder to be careful and should be read by everyone. 

TIP #10Festival and rave culture needs to have “Zero Tolerance” for sexual violence

Leandra Pelonquin points out that prevention of sexual assault needs to be more “broadly addressed”. In her words we need to make sure that rave and festival culture does not do anything to “condone, normalize, minimize or glamorize sexual violence.”  

Katie Bain, Senior Music Writer for LA Weekly wrote an article (with the mind-blowing title “Guys, Predatory Dance Floor Boners Are Not OK”) describing the problem of guys forcibly grinding on women at EDM shows without their consent and then acting as if this was somehow okay. 

This is a perfect example where the culture has to just say “No, this shit is NOT okay.” The good news is that festival and rave culture is an amazingly positive, diverse and wonderful one. I am routinely amazed at how respectful people are to each at festivals.  It seems like if any culture can have a “Zero Tolerance for creepy behavior,” it will be the Festival community. We just have to become more aware of our surroundings and be more careful with our choices. Being educated is the best way to be safe at any festival, and with help from friends, the rest of the community, and festival organizers and safety staff, everyone can have a positive, safe experience. Have fun festies!!



Trouble in Transit: What to do if police stop you on the way to a music festival

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When Phish played at Outside Lands a few years back, I happened to run into a very cool group of their fans waiting for the shuttle bus. They told me they were from New York and were following the band across the country. We talked about how followers of the band really tried to welcome newer fans and teach them some of the traditions and ideals of being a “Phan”. They ended by telling me a few “war stories” from different tours they had followed.

I love people who are this passionate about music. So this article is for all you Phans, Bassheads, Pretty Lights Family members, DMB and Widespread Panic followers and all you other “festies” who are going to be logging serious miles as you travel to your next show or festival.

Or to put it another way — Here is what to do if the police stop you ON YOUR WAY to a music festival.


TRAVEL TIP #1: At your home you are a “King in a Castle”

Wait, if I’m writing an article about travel issues, then why am I starting with your rights when the police come to your house?

Because the question of what rights you have at a particular location (like whether the police need a warrant or what’s considered an “unreasonable search”) often depends on how much the location is like a home. The law calls this a “reasonable expectation of privacy”.

Your privacy rights are at their strongest when you are in your own home. In fact this tradition is so strong it is sometimes called the “Castle Doctrine”. This come from the English Common Law phrase “An Englishman’s home is his castle.” (English Common Law is sort of the “Old School” or “Vinyl” version of American law.)

You probably already know that the police must get a search warrant before they are allowed to search your home unless there is some kind of legal exception like “exigent circumstances”.

What you also need to know is that one of the other most common exceptions where the police don’t need a search warrant is when the owner gives consent or permission for the cops to search the house.

Cops actually kind of hate getting search warrants. It’s a little bit of a pain for them to do as a practical matter and they aren’t keen on running their probable cause by a Judge. So cops will often try to avoid the need for a search warrant by doing what they call a “Knock and Talk”.

Like the trailer for a new Jennifer Aniston comedy, a “Knock and Talk” seems like it would be a lot more fun that it actually ends up being. A “Knock and Talk” involves the cops knocking at your door and asking, “Say, if you don’t have anything to hide, how about we come into your house and take a look around?”

In other words, like vampires, cops can only come into your home (without a warrant) if you invite them in.

Okay, as the Arctic Monkeys song says, “Perhaps vampires is a bit strong,” but you get the point — If an officer wants to search your home you should assume you are a suspect in a criminal investigation. Act accordingly. Remain silent and ask for a lawyer. The only thing you should say is:

“Officer, I can’t let you inside without a search warrant.”

Don’t worry if you can’t remember this phrase, you can get a doormat to remind you.


TRAVEL TIP #2: Hotel Room Searches

“Our hotel room looked like the site of some disastrous zoological experiment involving whiskey and gorillas.” –Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

I recently had some folks tweet me to say that they were staying at a hotel for a concert and cops were basically going up and down the hallways of the hotel banging on doors and saying “Police, open up” and randomly searching rooms. They asked what rights they had in that situation.

The legal issue here is…you guessed it…whether you have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in your hotel room.

To determine if you have a “reasonable expectation of privacy”, the law asks questions like:

  • Are you there lawfully?
  • Is it private property?
  • Do you have any ownership rights there?
  • Can you eject people from the location?
  • Can you yell “Hey you kids get off my goddamn lawn!?”

(Hint — one of the prongs of this test was really just a joke to see if you are still paying attention.)

Generally, if you are using your hotel room in an ordinary way, then you have a limited right to privacy in that room. In other words, police will usually need to get a search warrant.

On the other hand, if the hotel believes that you are using your room for illegal activity, then hotel management has the right to enter and search your room without your permission.

Importantly, the manager of the hotel can’t give the police permission to search your room. But there are all kinds of other ways cops can search without getting a warrant. For example, if you open the door and people are openly using drugs in “plain view” of the cops, they can probably search. Or if they do a “knock and talk” and someone else in your room says “come in” they can probably search.

Bottom line: Don’t use your hotel room like Dr. Gonzo (i.e. openly engaging in illegal activity). Tell the folks staying in your room to be cool and not to give anyone permission to come into the room. Don’t consent to any searches and don’t be tricked into thinking that management can somehow give the police permission to search your room.

Even though it’s not your actual house, you still have a right to be free from harassment and random searches of your room without a warrant. Just like Borat when he entered his hotel room and found a chair, you too are a “King in your Castle” in your hotel room.


TRAVEL TIP #3: Car Stops…Or maybe Jay-Z actually had 100 problems.

People constantly ask me what to do if the police stop their car. Although I love the song and I think Jay-Z is a genius, people are also constantly misquoting his song “99 problems” for one of the biggest legal myths out there.

The second verse of the song is fictional, but based on a true story. The cops want to search his car (loaded with cocaine), he refuses, they wait for drug-sniffing dogs that never show up, and Mr. Carter gets away with it. During this conversation, Jay-Z says:

“Well, my glove compartment is locked, so is the trunk and the back, and I know my rights so you gon’ need a warrant for that.

The good thing the narrator does in this song, and something YOU should always do, is refuse to give the police consent to search his car. Specifically, he tells the officer “No, I don’t consent to any search.”

But unlike what the song suggests, the police never needed a warrant in the first place. The courts have declared that there is an “automobile exception” to the normal requirement of a search warrant. That’s because cars are very mobile and can easily be moved to destroy evidence. Also, cars are highly regulated and usually in a public place. Cars in public places without privacy rights = no “reasonable expectation of privacy”.

Police must still have some facts or evidence to believe you are involved in criminal activity (probable cause) or they can’t search the car. This could be the sight or smell of contraband or a weapon in plain view.

Although not nearly as catchy, the legally correct phrasing of that verse should have been “I know my rights so you gon’ need probable cause for that.

By the way, Jay-Z wrote in his book that the “bitch” in question is not an unpleasant woman but a drug-sniffing dog. The “100th” problem would have been the cop using a “bitch” (drug dog) to search his car.

If so, he’s lucky the year “was 94” when his “trunk was raw”. That’s because after that, in a case called Illinois v. Caballes, the Supreme Court ruled that the 4th Amendment doesn’t EVEN APPLY to the use of drug sniffing dogs during car stops. So, if cops have you legally stopped they can freely use a dog to search.

I’ve got a whole future project I’m working on that is going to cover your rights in a car stop in a lot more detail. But here is an excellent summary from the folks at Flex Your Rights which gives you plenty of information about how to handle yourself if the police stop your car.


TRAVEL TIP #4: Temporary Homes Like Campgrounds and Motor Homes

Campgrounds Searches

In People v. Hughston 168 Cal. App. 4th 1062 (2008), the court was asked to rule whether the police needed a warrant to search a tent that was put up within a designated site on land specifically set aside for camping during a music festival.

The court found that the defendant did have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in the tent and that therefore a warrant was needed under the Fourth Amendment. The court added, “One should be free to depart the campsite for the day’s adventure without fear of this expectation of privacy being violated.’” (Hughston, at p. 1070)

In other words, because the person was there lawfully, had the right to kick others off the property and had ownership rights over the tent, it was more like a house or a hotel room than a car.

Of course, things might be different depending on the festival and the location. I mean, what if the festival organizers tell you that this is “private property” and instruct you that you have no ownership or privacy rights there at all? Or what if the promoters announce openly as you arrive that they are giving the police permission at any time to search your tent?

When it comes to festival campgrounds you really need to do your homework. Read the festival’s website. Look at what your ticket or other contract with the festival says. Ask past festivalgoers what their experience has been. Is the festival known for people being harassed and aggressively searched for no reason?

In other words, you aren’t really a “King in a Castle” in this situation. But you may be at least a prince or some lesser royalty if you know your rights and educate yourself.

Festivalgoers should insist that the festivals they go to are safe and that security concerns are handled in a professional and courteous manner. In return, festies can help upgrade the experience by being fun, positive audience goers who police and are responsible for each other’s safety.

Motor Homes

In California v. Carney 471 U.S. 386 (1985) the US Supreme Court ruled that motor homes are to be treated like cars and that the “automobile exception” applies.

In other words, after this Supreme Court ruling your privacy rights in a motor home are “NO MORE!” (yes, that’s a “Winnebago Man” reference.)


TRAVEL TIP #5: Airport Searches

As you might imagine, you have zero “reasonable expectation of privacy” at the airport. A TSA airport security zone is basically a way more legally serious and federalized Costco. Only it’s the Department of Homeland Security that’s checking your receipt and going through your shit on the way out. Transportation Security Agency (TSA) agents are legally permitted to search you and your belongings without a search warrant or probable cause or any other legal justification.

The question I get a lot is whether you can take “legal” or medicinal marijuana on a plane with you to your next festival.

This is a weird legal area. That’s because medical marijuana is legal in the state of California but Federal Law makes marijuana a Schedule 1 Controlled substance. The FAA and the Department of Homeland Security are under Federal law, so travelling with medical marijuana or marijuana from a “legal” state (about 20 states at this point) puts you into a grey area. It’s legal under state law, but illegal under Federal Law.

The TSA website says this:

Whether or not marijuana is considered “medical marijuana” under local law is not relevant to TSA screening because TSA is governed by federal law and federal law provides no basis to treat medical marijuana any differently than non-medical marijuana.

Ahh, so travelling through the airport is a strict violation of Federal law and you will be automatically arrested, right? Well maybe not.

The TSA also adds:

The discovery of marijuana in a carry-on or checked bag does not automatically mean that a passenger will be turned over to local police, and the agency adds that “the final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any items on the plane.”

You read that right — whether you are using medical marijuana to treat your “backiotemy” or you are merely an “enhancement smoker”, you might be able to take it on the plane with you.

On the other hand, it might be a seriously bad experience for you if you get the wrong TSA agent. I mean maybe you can check your bag with pot or try to carry it on with your medical marijuana card. But why would you risk it? I would put this in the “unnecessary risk” category.

(Random Fact: In 2011, TSA agents at Denver International Airport found bags of weed in rapper Freddie Gibbs’ luggage and simply left him a note reading “C’mon son.”)

The ACLU also has a “know your rights when traveling” page that has a lot of additional resources.


Yay! You made it. So what do you do if you get all the way to a festival and the cops stop you? Heck, you should already know the answer to this.


If you want a ”Tip Card” to take with you to remind you what to do if the police stop you your next festival, you can download it here or contact me on Twitter.

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MDMA safety: Practical medical tips for ravers who choose to use ecstasy


Follow the Festival Lawyer on Twitter // Photo by Sterling Munksgard

In writing the second part of this article about “Ecstasy Safety”, I found almost as many urban myths surrounding the medical aspects of Ecstasy as there are surrounding the legal aspects of the drug.

That’s why I’m super fortunate to be able to collaborate with Stefanie Jones and Missi Wooldridge from DanceSafe.

DanceSafe is a grassroots organization that promotes health, education and safety within the rave and festival community. DanceSafe is also one of the leading groups promoting “harm reduction” policies in the rave and festival community.

“Harm Reduction” is a public health philosophy that encourages policy choices at raves and fests that reduce the risks associated with the use of MDMA.

Think of this article as a form of ”Personal Harm Reduction”. What specific, practical medical tips should ravers who choose to use Ecstasy know?


The Number One Risk in using MDMA isn’t actually using MDMA.

Woah. This first tip reads a bit like a Zen Koan. Allow me to explain what I mean.

People make irrational and illogical decisions when it comes to weighing perceived risks all the time.

I mean, we have a 5 second rule for foods because, “Oh God! I couldn’t possibly touch a Fig Newton off that disgusting floor.” And we put dainty paper rings down on our toilet seats to avoid the rampaging public health threat of TSTBDs (Toilet Seat Transmitted Butt Diseases).

But pass around an unknown powder which may or may not contain any active ingredient other than rat poison? All of a sudden it’s, “Let me hit that shit!…Is there enough for me?”

In preparing this article I had a chance to speak to Dr. Julie Holland, who ”wrote the book” on Molly in her book, Ecstasy: the Complete Guide: A Comprehensive Look at the Risks and Benefits of MDMA.

Turns out Dr. Holland puts “ingesting unknown substances into your body” into the “risk” rather than “benefit” category of Ecstasy usage:

What’s happening these days, though, is you have no idea what you’re taking. Maybe it’s MDMA, but it could also be any other number of drugs, research chemicals, or prescription drugs. When someone buys “Ecstasy” or “Molly” maybe it’s MDMA, but it’s very possible it could be anything else you can think of. A bag of white powder is inherently very dangerous since you have no idea what’s in it.

Missi Wooldridge at DanceSafe makes the same point. Unless you have a testing kit, you literally have NO idea what you are putting in your body

What is sold as Molly is often a mystery powder and may not contain MDMA at all. Most frequently, it contains a new psychoactive substance such as those from the family of Cathinones (i.e., Mephedrone, Methylone, Butylone or MDPV). Other common adulterants include 2C(x); PMA/PMMA, mCPP, and other Piperzines; and Methamphetamine. NEVER obtain drugs from a stranger!

In his recent article for Forbes Magazine, Jacob Sollum put it this way…. “Molly these days is the shit… but not in a good way”.

(PS – Here is a bonus Zen Koan tip. That tree falling in the forest without anyone there? It definitely makes a sound. Leave your iPhone in the forest and hit that red “record” button if you don’t believe me…Boom. Done. I just totally saved you a trip to a Zen monastery.)


Unless you happen to be crazy, test your Stuff.

Okay, so Ecstasy/Molly may contain things you had no idea you were putting in your body. Like what? Well, for example, there are synthetic Cathinones, a common ingredient in those “bath salts” that supposedly turn people into flesh-eating zombies. (FYI, Stefanie Jones says that of all the pills tested by DanceSafe, less than half contain actual MDMA.)

Given that, Tip 2 should be pretty obvious — You have to be crazy to use an unknown powder without having it tested.

I asked Missi why she advocates so strongly for testing kits to be available for use at raves and festivals:

I advocate for testing kits because NOT providing them is morally and medically negligent. The other side of this is how highly adulterated substances are now. Until we screen/test people’s substances, we aren’t doing anything at all to reduce the risk of people taking adulterated substances at these big events where we are seeing tragedies.

Another huge reason for testing your stuff is the danger of unintentionally mixing substances. Experts usually have some idea what one drug may do to you. But when you combine it with another drug, you are basically a “drug guinea pig”. That’s because it’s so difficult to predict how two drugs will react together in an individual.

This issue of these so called “drug cocktails” came up in the Electric Zoo deaths as well. Toxicology tests showed that the young woman (Olivia Rotondo) died from acute intoxication after taking pure MDMA. However, the young man (Jeffrey Russ) had actually taken a fatal mixture of MDMA and Methylone.

Missi uses the term “morally and medically negligent” to describe the decision not to test an unknown substance. I would describe the decision to not to test as falling into the “Don’t you know I’m loco? Insane in the membrane. Insane in the brain!” level of crazy decision-making.

DanceSafe provides adulterant screening on site at events when they are allowed to do so. But if you are going to “roll responsibly”, you need to buy and use your own test kits.


Take steps to properly hydrate and chill out.

Every music audience seems to have it’s own mood altering substance of choice. When I saw Snoop Dogg at Coachella, he came out with a gigantic blunt and encouraged the audience to “light up”. This might have been the most unneeded direction given by a performer to an audience ever. I don’t think there was anyone there who was NOT smoking weed.

On the other hand, if you go to a “rave”, chances are high some folks will be using Ecstasy. But the combo of high-energy dance music and “rolling” can be dangerous without taking precautions.

That’s because MDMA (and Methylone, which is one of the most common things in Molly), and Methamphetamine all work in part by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure and body temperature. Dancing for hours uninterrupted by breaks, especially in hot temperatures and with other people packed together does the same thing. It’s this combo of raving and rolling that can potentially be lethal.

I asked Dr. Holland what she would tell a raver taking MDMA to do to increase their safety:

To increase safety, there needs to be chill out rooms, free water readily available, and a lot of outreach and education. People need to be instructed to take breaks, drink water or electrolyte solutions, not alcohol or energy drinks, and also not too much water, which can be dangerous. Try to only replace fluids lost by sweating.

As Jules Winnfield would tell you, “we all have to be like Little Fonzies…and what’s Fonzie like? …Cool.”

So everyone just needs to be cool and everything is fine, right? Well not really. That’s because you can’t just hydrate and chill out and solve the danger. The problem is that MDMA causes fluid retention, especially in women, and hyponatremia (overhydration) can also be lethal.

For a while, people in the community were treating water like a “toxic drug flush”. The myth has been floating around (ha! see what I did there?) that if you just drank enough water that it would flush out the bad stuff in your body. But that’s not true. Water is an antidote to dehydration, not to the effects of Ecstasy or other drugs. You have to be careful hydrating too.


Make sure your Festival buddies are okay.

As I mentioned in a previous article, making a commitment to be responsible for your friend’s safety at an event is the “Golden Rule” of being a good Festival Buddy.

I asked Missi Wooldridge what a Festival Buddy should know to be able to take care of their buddy who takes Molly:

This may be stating the obvious, but LOOK OUT FOR YOUR FRIENDS and never let someone wander alone. Drink water and replenish electrolytes. Take breaks and cool down. Communicate with someone around you if you start to feel overwhelmed or are having a difficult experience. If someone around you seems fatigued, confused, or is having a difficult time breathing and/or standing on their own two feet, get them somewhere safe to sit and cool down. Seek onsite medical personnel.

I started to dedicate a portion of this article to talk about what symptoms or signs people should be looking for when it comes to determining if their fest buddy is overdosing or having a bad reaction. But I realized it would be safer and smarter to direct you to two resources that answer these questions in more detail.

First of all, I encourage you to look at the DanceSafe advice page talking about how to avoid dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

It’s also a good idea to download the DanceSafe app. (it’s just Android App right now but IOS shortly). The emergency response sections of the app talks a great deal about what to do if you feel your friend is overdosing or having a “bad trip”.

Boom Festival, one of the largest Psytrance Festivals on the planet, is a great example of how drug checking has been integrated into a festival event.

Boom Festival, one of the largest Psytrance Festivals on the planet,
is a great example of how drug checking has been integrated into an event.

Festivalgoers should only attend events where the promoters encourage “harm reduction”.

In 2002, Senator Joe Biden attempted to pass a bill called the RAVE act in Congress. When opposition to the bill started to organize, they changed the name to the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act of 2003, attached it to the popular Amber Alert legislation and quietly snuck it into law.

The bill basically makes it illegal for for anyone to “knowingly” put on an event that has the purpose of “using, distributing or manufacturing any controlled substance.”

This is why promoters and festival organizers are in such a tough spot. They know that if they allow test kits and other “harm reduction” activities they are potentially exposing themselves to civil and criminal liability.

Why? Well, because someone after the fact may say, “see they KNEW there were going to be people using Ecstasy at this event. They even had test kits to help them use it!”

On the other hand, if they don’t take basic “harm reduction” steps (chill out rooms, medics on hand, plenty of water available) they get accused of not taking care of their audience and could potentially end up with people getting hurt or killed.

Missi Wooldridge thinks the key is for promoters and raves and fests to integrate “harm reduction” services while at the same time adopting a “zero tolerance” drug policy:

There is a thin line, but the line is walkable. If you familiarize yourself with the NEWIP and TEDI project, these are great examples of how government, public health officials, and the nightlife industry can come together to improve the quality of life for this community. Boom Festival in Portugal is a great example of how drug checking has been integrated into the event.

Remember a few articles back when I wrote about needing to bring back the second “R” in PLUR? The one promoting “Responsibility”? To me the “Second R” means encouraging promoters and club/venue owners to adopt and promote harm reduction practices and policies. It also means not supporting or attending events that don’t follow these practices.

I’m trying, Ringo. I’m trying real hard with this article to be the shepherd. But honestly, people in the dance community themselves are the only ones who can fix this problem. They can do that by demanding safe events. And if they don’t see harm reduction policies in place, they can force change by not going to that event again.


Join and promote organizations like Dance Safe that promote harm reduction

As you can tell, I am a big fan of DanceSafe. I have all their albums.

DanceSafe provides on site harm reduction services, both stationary and mobile to events. Typically, they will set up a table and provide patrons with condoms, water, ear plugs, sunscreen, unbiased drug information, and adulterant screening (upon approval). They also provide a safe space for people to cool down and have healthy conversations about the drug use and their health.

Go like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @dancesafe.

Once again, huge thanks to Missi Wooldridge and Stefanie Jones for all their time and attention to this article. This is collaboration in the best sense of the word.

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The Law of MDMA: Practical Legal Tips for Ravers who Choose to Use Ecstasy


Follow the Festival Lawyer on Twitter // Photo by Marc Fong

“I just took six hits of Molly.” Those were 20-year-old Olivia Rotondo’s last words to an EMS worker at this year’s Electric Zoo Music Festival. Jeffrey Russ, 24, also died from an MDMA overdose at that same event. Four other people were hospitalized.

Fortunately, the media used the tragedy at Electric Zoo to have a thoughtful, informed discussion about MDMA use in the EDM community. Just kidding. The media chose the “Blind Hysteria” option. For example, The New York Daily News’ headline the next day was simply “DEATH FEST”.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Congress was attempting to outright ban all raves and dance music events on the basis that club owners and promoters knowingly allowed illegal drug activity on their premises. And when a teenager died at Electric Daisy Carnival in 2010, California politicians immediately proposed the “Anti Raves Act” of 2011 to ban raves entirely in the state.

That’s why I am suggesting it is up to the dance community to police itself now before the government jumps into EDM events to propose new regulations or ban raves completely.

What can the dance community do to make sure a tragedy like this doesn’t happen again? It can make sure that festivals are doing everything possible to make sure people are safe when they go to an EDM event. And ravers themselves need to be doing more on their part to party responsibly and to look out for their festival buddies.

This is a two-part “Ecstasy safety” article. Part One focuses on practical legal advice so that you know your legal rights if you or a friend use MDMA. Part Two focuses on practical medical and “harm reduction” tips.

If the police stop you at a rave, ask if you are being detained and leave IMMEDIATELY if you aren’t.

Let’s say you are at a rave and a cop stops you and asks to search you. What do you do?
Everyone should know and understand their basic legal rights in this situation.

1) Ask if you are being detained or arrested.
2) Exercise your Constitutional right to remain silent.
3) Do not consent to any search of your person or property.
4) Have your “Festival Buddy” record your encounter with the officer.

I have already covered all of this in a prior article in a lot more detail. If you haven’t already read it or need a refresher of your basic rights, take a look here.

Most Ecstasy cases in criminal court involve a detention and subsequent search by the police. That’s why it’s so important to ask the key Festival Lawyer phrase: “Am I being detained? Why? Am I free to go, or am I under arrest?”

If a cop detains you, unless you verbally ask to leave, a Judge will assume you agreed to the encounter with that officer.

Also, if an officer says you can leave, it’s up to you to leave the scene of the encounter immediately. If you choose to stay, the detention is automatically legal.

That’s why it is critical to ALWAYS ask the cop if you are free to leave. If not, you know you are a suspect in a crime. That means you need to remain silent and wait for a lawyer. If, on the other hand, the cop says you are free to leave then leave immediately.

Listen, I know you may want to stick around and debate with the cop his opinion on whether dubstep is dead or not. But don’t. As I always tell my clients when I get a good result in court, “Let’s leave before someone changes their mind.”

If you are “Under the Influence” of Ecstasy, you can be arrested and searched at any time.

California’s Health and Safety Code Section 11550 makes it a misdemeanor to be “under the influence” of a controlled substance like MDMA.

When someone is driving a truck and the truck has a broken taillight or another vehicle code violation, cops use the slang phrase, “rolling probable cause” to describe it. This means they can stop that vehicle and investigate the occupants at any time. The owner of that truck has basically given the cops a standing invitation to be investigated.

The law says that if a cop is a DRE (Drug Recognition Expert) and he can see “objective symptoms” that you are high on Ecstasy, you can be arrested and searched at any time.

From a legal standpoint you need to be aware that if you are high on MDMA, you are just like that truck with a broken taillight. You are ”rolling probable cause” and subject to being stopped, arrested, and searched.


If you are caught with Ecstasy, what you intended to do with it makes a huge difference.

Under California law, possession of MDMA is treated as the same type of felony (Health and Safety Code Section 11377) as possession of Methamphetamine. After all, MDMA is short for Methylenedioxymethamphetamine.

Let’s take a scenario where you are stopped at a rave and found with Molly on your person. Now what?

In California, the law looks to see what you intended to do with that powder. If it’s a small amount and you can show that it was just for your own “personal use” you should be okay. The law calls this “simple” drug possession and you should be eligible for a drug diversion program or perhaps a minor misdemeanor charge.

If on the other hand, the government can show that you intended to sell (or distribute) that Molly, you just crossed a very serious line. It’s a “Smokey, You are entering a world of pain” level of line crossing.

That’s because “Possession for Sale” of Ecstasy is what is called a “Non Alternative” Felony under Health and Safety 11378(a). This type of felony makes you ineligible for any kind of “diversion” or other drug program. It also means you can’t get a misdemeanor on the case. Instead you now face a mandatory felony and potential jail time.

Remember how I told you that possession of Ecstasy is treated the same as possession of methamphetamine? I said that for a reason. Under the law, if the cops can show that you intended to sell (or distribute) the Ecstasy, you and Heisenberg both get the same charge – namely, a felony under Health and Safety Code Section 11378(a).

Cops are legally allowed to lie to you in an interview.

Okay, so how do the courts determine what you intended to do with that Ecstasy you were caught with?

Normally, the police will look at things like how much MDMA you had, how much money you had with you, how it was packaged, what kind of texts you have on your phone, and also what you told the police about your intent.

Most people are taught to cooperate with the cops and we are taught from a young age to trust the police. So a lot of people end up talking to the cops. Cops will always ask what you intended to with the Ecstasy.

But here is something you may not know:

Let that sink in. Cops can totally tell you stuff like, “We have a witness who says you sold him the drugs” or “We have you on videotape selling” or anything else they can think of to get you to confess.

One of the police’s favorite things to do is to try to get you to admit to something that sounds like it is not that serious but really IS just as serious legally.

Example, “Listen bro…I know you weren’t going to sell these pills. I bet you had that many pills because you were just going to give some to your friends to party with, right?”

Gee what a cool cop. He totally gets me and my vibe. Heck he probably is a member of the PLUR police…Oh wait…did I mention that the law considers “distribution” of drugs the same as the “sale” of drugs? That’s right, if you admit you were “giving away” the drugs, it’s the same legally as admitting you are a drug dealer.

Bottom line, if you get arrested, don’t talk, and ask for a lawyer immediately. Asking for a lawyer USED TO stop the interrogation then and there. A very recent Supreme Court case, (Montejo v. Louisiana) now allows police to keep trying to get you to talk. BUT DON’T ANSWER THEM. When the police tell you that anything you say can and will be used against you in court, they’re not joking.

NEVER give away or take drugs from strangers

Spoiler Alert: In next week’s “Medical Safety” article, one of the key tips from drug experts is to never take drugs from someone you don’t know (and never take drugs that have not been tested).

Turns out there is similar advice from the legal experts (me). Here’s why:

Sales of Ecstasy is also a mandatory “non-alternative” felony (California Health and Safety Code 11379). This charge normally involves someone selling to an undercover cop or buying from an undercover cop.

I can’t tell you the number of times someone has said to me “This guy came up to me and just kept bugging me for drugs and I eventually gave him some. Turns out it was a cop. I was totally entrapped into giving him drugs!”

This is a pretty common misconception. Actually, Entrapment only applies where law enforcement engages in conduct that would likely induce a normally law-abiding citizen to commit that crime. (People v. Grantham (1972) 26 Cal.App.3d 661, 665)

That means that you have to show that the undercover officer did more than ask you for drugs. You have to show that he pressured, harassed or threatened you as well.

That means it is perfectly legal for a cop to ask you to sell them drugs or even ask you repeatedly if you can “help them out” or just give them drugs. This is why being friendly and “giving away” some Molly to a stranger is not an #upgrade, but actually #dumb.

Bonus Legal TipIf you ask a cop if he is an undercover cop he can totally lie.

Okay can everyone PLEASE stop spreading the urban myth that if you ask an undercover cop if he is a cop he has to tell you the truth? It’s hard to know why so many people believe this. I mean, how would cops ever work undercover if it was true?

The law says that an undercover cop can totally lie to you if you ask him if he is a cop. But I mean really you should already know this. Didn’t everybody see that episode of Breaking Bad where this was all explained by Badger?

Thoughts On Our Drug War

I know you are probably thinking, “Hey Festival Lawyer, it’s a good thing our society makes drug policy decisions based on evidence about the drug’s dangerousness vs. its potential benefit to society, right?”

Hahahaha…That’s a good one. Oh wait, you were serious? No. We make drug policy for all kinds of crazy reasons.

Don’t believe me? Well I give you Festival Lawyer Exhibit One: The DEA’s complete shenanigans in making MDMA illegal in the first place.

In the late 80s hearings were held to determine if MDMA should be considered a “Schedule I” drug under Federal Law. A Schedule I drug has no “legitimate medical purpose” and has a “high potential for abuse”.

A number of psychiatrists and psychotherapists testified that they used MDMA in their practice and it had a legitimate medical purpose. In fact, a Federal judge, hearing this testimony, made a recommendation that MDMA be made a “Schedule III” drug. This would have let doctors continue to use and research the drug. The judge felt that the DEA could then make a future determination about the dangerousness of the drug.

The DEA was like “evidence based decision making…what’s that?”, ignored the medical evidence, ignored the judge’s recommendation and went ahead and made it illegal for all purposes.

To sum up, the DEA made MDMA illegal because it was too “dangerous” to the public. Ironically, the act of classifying it as “dangerous” and illegal MADE it way more dangerous. Because we aren’t researching it and studying it, we really have little idea how dangerous it is. That’s some serious, next level, ten thousand spoons when you all you need is a knife, level of irony.

That is why I believe so strongly in educating yourself about your rights and empowering yourself to make smart choices.

As part of that education, next week’s article focuses on tips to keep yourself “medically safe” through the use of test kits and other “harm reduction” ideas.

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The Festival Lawyer: Upgrade Your Festival Experience Part 2


Read the first article in this series. Follow the Festival Lawyer on Twitter.

If I had a time machine I would go back in time and…

  1. See The Doors play live.
  2. Tell my younger self to wear ear plugs if I intend to go to this many concerts the rest of my life; and finally
  3. Tell my younger self to hang out with more positive and less negative people.

I know, I know, I sound like a jerk for not using the time machine to kill Hitler or stop George Lucas from wrecking Star wars. But in my defense, how cool would it be to see Jim Morrison live at the Whisky a Go Go with a bunch of people freaking out?

Anyway, the point I’m making is that when you write about ideas to make festivals better and more fun, some positive people step up to say “how can I help?” Or more often than not I’m hearing, “guess what, I am already doing that!”

So I wanted to do a follow up article telling you about all the awesome “Upgrade” ideas people sent me. In fact, I am going to turn the last part of this article over to Britz Bitz from Shambhala Music Festival. She will talk about how part of her job at Shambala Music festival is literally to promote positivity and encourage Upgrades by their fest goers. (And I thought my job was cool.)

Here are some awesome UPGRADE ideas you can try at your next fest/rave:

It’s super hard to misinterpret your attitude or intent with this one. I mean seriously why did this go out of fashion? What’s so funny about Peace, Love, and Understanding?

I like to hi-five anyone who I see that is dancing or singing or being awesome at a festival. There is no clearer way to say, “You are killing it”.

Everyone hates taking a “T Rex Selfie”. Next time you see someone struggling to hold their phone out far enough to take a decent picture, just offer to take it for them. Guess what? You just made an instant concert friend and totally helped someone document an awesome memory.

BONUS: if you want a pic of you and your girlfriend, they kind of have to take your picture back. It’s like the law or something.

This is super easy and yet has a huge impact. I usually wear a crazy silver disco shirt to fests. I do this mainly because a silver disco shirt is the universal symbol of “Let’s Party”. Also, a silver disco shirt sends the clear message, “go ahead and approach me. I am wearing something so ridiculous that I clearly won’t judge you.”

But really, T-Shirts can do more than just make people have more fun at festivals. Just ask the “I Am So Happy” crew. They all wear “I AM SO HAPPY” T-Shirts to their festivals. They emailed me to tell me about their awesome philosophy on going to festivals. Check out their cool credo below. It’s got a very “In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night” Green Lantern Corps kind of vibe to it:

We will do literally anything to enhance the experience of those around us. This familial tendency is what, we feel, the scene is lacking. We are a family, we are all there to enjoy ourselves and the music, but not at the expense of our health or the enjoyment of those around us. This is a part of the credo that takes priority once donning the shirt, to always look out for your neighbor and always act when circumstances require action. With every shirt we give away or sell, that is the ideology we bestow on the new member.

How awesome is this idea? (you can find them on Twitter @imsohappycrew or their website.)


Giving out water at a rave or watching to make sure your friends are hydrated and cooled down is not only an “Upgrade” but goes to that “Responsibility” thing as well. But what might not have occurred to you is that there can be fun ways to be responsible…Don’t believe me? Check this out:

Kate wrote,

Great article! I’ve been nicknamed “the water fairy” because I’m always offering water to my friends and even strangers that look like they need it. Pretty sure I’ve saved multiple lives because instead of just looking at someone in trouble I will go find a medic or security to help them… once I even crawled under a bathroom stall to unlock it for security because a girl was passed out at a club. I’ll definitely be thinking about upgrading more from now on! Party safe and party smart.

Another thing you can do to Upgrade people is give a little gift that although small in price is huge in terms of how much comfort it gives.

My girlfriend (the amazing and awesome Mrs. Festival Lawyer) carries some cardboard “p-mate” disposable female urination assist devices with her. This is a device that lets women use the bathrooms standing up. When she sees a woman who shares her horror of porta-potties, she will give one to her and tell her how to get them for herself next festival.

I know what you are thinking, “If God had wanted women to pee standing up He would not have created urinals.” And honestly I don’t think as a man I truly “got” how much more horrifying public toilets are for women than men. But I do now. Honestly the amount of Upgrade this conveys is amazing to see. Women are sooo happy when she gives them out. I almost expect them to come out of the bathroom area singing “Sisters are doing it for themselves”. Find them here.

Giving away some small stuff is a total upgrade because of the simple fact that people love free shit.

It’s like those times you find a free newspaper in the lobby outside your hotel room when you wake up. You get seriously pumped up, right? This is true even though logically you know that paper actually cost 200 dollars (or whatever the rate for your room was).

Candy is probably the easiest thing to give out. The main issue is that people assume you are trying to give them drugs or trying to poison them, and in fact people might be super suspicious of what you are doing. I’m not even kidding. Honestly, I recommend saying out loud to people “Don’t freak out – I am not giving you drugs or poison it’s just a Jolly Rancher.” Repeat this calmly and deliberately with a non-maniacal smile on your face for best results.

Monserrat commented:

Fuck yeah!!! No way we would have survived our crazy party days without our friends having our back! I like to upgrade by bringing something to give and share with ppl. Like candy necklaces, shiny things, etc…

So before I turn this over to Britz, let me blow your mind for a second.

The premise of my original article in this series was that if you think positively and “Upgrade” people, you will get more back in terms of your festivals.

Now get this, positive people who read it wrote back to me and gave me Upgrading ideas and cool ways to make my fest better. In other words, I wrote about “Upgrading” and people responded by “Upgrading” my column with their ideas and enthusiasm for the project.

Cool right? But check this out — I “Upgraded” them back in this column by telling people about their projects and their dreams and enthusiasm. This (hopefully) will cause other people to check out their festival or crew or program. In other words this whole article was an “Upgrade” back to them.

But wait, that’s not the crazy part! I had a premise that Upgrading stuff makes your festivals better. And by writing that article, people responded by telling me about cool festivals to go to, wanting to meet me at festivals and telling me cool stuff that will make my own festivals better. In other words…


Quod Erat Demonstrandum baby!! Oh man! Is that spinning top going to fall or keep spinning? Are you in someone else’s dream right now? Do you see the Matrix? Do you now know Kung Fu? Mind officially blown!

Okay, calm down everyone. Now that your mind is right, check out how all these ideas work in an actual music festival.


Upgrades & ParticiPARTYing — by Britz Bitz

When I was reading part one of the Upgrade series, my first thought was, “I want this guy at our festival!”

“Our festival,” is Shambhala near Salmo, BC, Canada. 2014 will be our 17th year. I’ve been going since 2003, and working for the festival since 2007.

One of the things about Shambhala that captured my heart all those years ago was the community. You really couldn’t ask for a better crowd of attendees. “Upgrades” kind of naturally worked their way into our festival culture.

For a long time, it was just this unspoken thing. But we realized at some point that if we wanted that part of culture to sustain, we’d have to communicate it somehow as the festival grew and electronic music gained more mainstream popularity.

The answer came in “Shambassadors” – “Shambhalove”, personified (ok, yeah, we totally have our own lexicon. That’s just a scratch on the surface). They share the heart of Shambhala throughout the festival grounds. They’re the first to greet guests, and the last to say goodbye. They carry spritz bottles and offer to mist people in the heat of the day, while communicating our community values to guests (as well as some practical stuff, like letting them know what health & safety services are available to them).

ParticiPARTY is an idea that kind of crystallized in my overactive mind last winter. My friends at AYNiB asked me to write a blog for them, and as I thought about my favourite experiences from 10 Shambhalas, 2 Burning Mans and dozens of other festivals, I recognized a common thread in what makes a festival experience great. And you’ve identified it as well – Upgrades, ParticiPARTY, Rage it Forward – we’re all talking about the same thing. And I love that the fire of this idea is burning in so many hearts and minds, named or unnamed.

Here’s a few of my favourite examples of ParticiPARTYing / Upgrades from this past festival season…


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Upgrade your Fest Experience by following the 3 “Festival-Buddy Golden Rules”


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This article started with me wanting to talk about what happened at Electric Zoo and the need for people to “Rave Responsibly”. You know, things like the need for accurate information, testing kits, and organizations that promote “Harm Reduction” and other practical advice. But when I started to write that article, I realized we needed to talk about something else first.

Did you know that PLUR used to have a second R? And that the second R stood for “Responsibility?” The question I keep asking myself is, “Do people still follow that second ‘R’?” Are Festival Buddies still taking care of their friends?

If so, why do we now see so many drunken folks left passed out or wandering aimlessly around by themselves at Coachella, sometimes looking like an episode of The Walking Dead? And how come a young woman is taking 6 tabs of Molly at Electric Zoo without her buddies stepping in? And why are women being put in potentially dangerous situations because their friends don’t know who they left with?

So, instead of just focusing on the EDM scene, I think we need to talk about a bigger topic: How do we create and promote an awesome, and more positive festival scene for everyone? To me the solution is for all of us to work on being better festival buddies to each other. I suggest following the Three Golden Rules:


You are responsible for your buddy’s (and rest of the audience’s) safety.

This rule is basically another way of saying, “There are ways to do irresponsible things responsibly.”

As a good Festival Buddy, I won’t leave your drunk ass lying in a heap because I am mad at you and just cross my fingers that you get home. Instead, I will get you home safely like you would do for me, and THEN tell you what an ass you are for wrecking my show.

Festival Buddy Golden Rule #1 Examples:
Many years ago, I pretty much missed most of a Pink Floyd show because halfway through, the dude I was with leaned over and said “Hey…I just took something from someone.” As smart as secretly taking an unknown drug from a stranger might seem, it turned out be a huge mistake on his part. Soon thereafter my friend started flipping out and told me that he was now seeing “cavemen on his eyelids.” Your humble narrator required constant use of the phrase “keep your shit together dude…right now…I’m super serious” and some Vince Vaughn level of fast talking to authorities to get us safely home that night.

I did that not because I am a great guy, but because my buddy was helpless and vulnerable. And because he would have done the same for me. A true Festival Buddy adopts a strict “Leave no Raver/Rocker behind or alone” philosophy.

Also, a good FB is an Educated, Empowered Citizen. He (or she) is educated and informed about organizations like dancesafe.org, bunkpolice.org, and plur-rx.com that promote testing and other “harm reduction” ideas at festivals and raves. Any person taking any drug has by definition engaged in a uniquely dangerous act. But if that’s your personal choice, then you need to be one seriously informed individual. Anything less is not “personal choice” but “personal recklessness”.

Also, as my last two articles have discussed, a good Festival Buddy knows his/her rights, and would watch and record an arrest for his buddy, or at least make sure to be that person’s lifeline to friends and family. (If you need to get up to speed on this, here is Part 1 and Part 2 of “What To Do if The Police Stop You at a Music Festival”.


(No, not “You do not talk about Festival Lawyer Club”)
“I will try to enjoy the show in such a way I don’t wreck your enjoyment of the show.”

A true Festival Buddy also knows how to “UPGRADE” his friends’ experiences. I call this philosophy the “UPGRADE” now, but I’ve seen this same idea floating around under a lot of different names and variations: PLUR, Good Vibe tribe, Rage it Forward, The 10 Principles, Concert Karma, etc.

All of these are different names for the same basic idea; that the level of fun you have at a festival has less to do with how good the performer is (although that helps) and way more to do with how good the audience is.

In other words, you will have the most fun at any festival where the audience is being fun and spreading positivity and good vibes to each other. This may sound a bit too “new agey” and “woo woo” for your tastes, but I assure you it is true both sociologically and psychologically. But seriously, do I really need to scientifically prove this to you? Isn’t it obviously more fun to be in a crowd of fun, positive, dancing people than be surrounded by a bunch of negative bad vibey jerks?

So part of the way I can UPGRADE the audience is by enjoying the show in such a way that it doesn’t wreck my friends’ show experience.

Festival Buddy Golden Rule #2 – Examples:
Maybe you might want to record the whole show on your iPhone (or now iPads? seriously?) and just stand there and focus on getting the best video and pics. I’m not here to judge or scold you. Although I do feel the need to point out that you will NEVER watch that stupid motherfucking shaky video again and you are watching something through a tiny screen that is actually happening really big and loud RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU LIVE!!! (Umm…actually maybe I am judging you a tiny bit. Sorry.)

But that’s beside the point. The point is, I can “UPGRADE” the experience around me by being present, being fun and by not holding up a large metal view blocking device throughout the concert in the face of the guy behind me.

Or maybe you like to treat the show as a backdrop to your private conversations with your friends. I KNOW you paid for your ticket too and have the RIGHT to talk about stupid crap at an awesome concert. So you can certainly do it. But for me, I know that I might be standing next to someone who is hearing some quiet, beautiful song that he might have waited years to hear live. So I can UPGRADE the audience by not talking over it.

I was at a Jack White concert last year and this guy was loudly arguing with his girlfriend during “Love Interruption”. (Oh the irony!!) Turned out the argument was about whether Radiohead or Coldplay was a better band. Which was weird because:

A) Fuck you if you don’t know that Radiohead is about 1 million times better than Coldplay.
B) Neither band was playing at that festival so that’s an even better reason to shut up. That dude totally downgraded his festival buddies’ experience and was a serious buzz kill to the audience around him.

But more than just not being disruptive, a true UPGRADE requires a commitment to making the audience better through positivity and fun.


I will UPGRADE the rest of the audience by personally taking positive actions.

The best definition of Positivity I know is that it makes me happy to see other people happy. So Upgrading is me just letting other people know that’s it’s okay for them to have fun around me.

I mainly do this by letting you know that I don’t think you are a freak or stare at you if you feel like dancing, singing or doing some kind of insane interpretive dance. In fact, I prefer that you stand next to me so I can tell you how you are “killing it”.

Festival Buddy Golden Rule #3 Examples:
Last year at Outside Lands, I asked someone to take a picture for us. “Fuck yeah I will” was his response. While taking the picture he was saying “fuck yeah..fuck yeah..this pic is going to be killer”. When it was done I told him thanks and he said “No..thank YOU!..that was fucking awesome!” (This dude seemed sober and just awesome.)

That was a huge “Upgrade” for us right? We laughed our asses off and kept saying it to other people at the festival. Whenever anyone asked me to take their photo my reply was “Fuck yeah I will!” We felt happier and spread more fun because of it. The effect rippled because other people would laugh about the story. Heck, we STILL laugh about it. An Upgrade is anything you do that is a way of paying forward positive vibes and letting people know that near you is the best, most fun place to party.

So wearing a crazy costume is an upgrade. Giving a hi-five at the show to someone wearing a crazy costume and saying “you’re doing great!” is an Upgrade. Saying “sorry, bro” to someone who you just bumped into is an Upgrade. Responding with “No Worries” is an Upgrade back. Starting a dance circle is an Upgrade. Joining that dance circle is an Upgrade back. See what I mean?


Or maybe you might give away your last bottle of water to someone who looks miserably hot, or give your Spirit Hood to someone freezing. Or take someone’s picture that is struggling to take a “selfie” with his or her partner.

If you need more examples, talk to just about any Deadhead or Phish or Widespread Panic fan. Or talk to people about PLURR. (I’m trying to bring back the second “R”) Or read the Burning Man 10 principles.

Or you could do what I did, Follow the Festival Guy on Twitter and read his blog and meet him at your next fest. Tucker Gumber was there at my “origin story” and first told me about “Raging it Forward”. Tucker is basically the Tyler Durden of positivity.

In other words, find cool people who believe in this way of “festing” and support them. If you see someone who is doing great, tell them. Maybe even ask “How about an Upgrade?” If the person doesn’t know what you are talking about, they are probably just a “Natural” partier and you should be fine for the rest of the night. But if they say “Fuck yeah” and hi-five you back? Well You KNOW they are a party professional and you are in good hands.

Do you have a code of positivity and responsibility (example PLURR) when you fest? Who taught you about it? Do you have a favorite way to upgrade other people’s experiences? Tell me in the comments about it or hit me up on Twitter to tell me about it.

Footnote 1 – Here is how this stuff works in real life:

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The Festival Lawyer: What To Do if The Police Stop You at a Music Festival – Part 2


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Let’s face it. Sequels suck. The only exceptions are Godfather 2, Aliens (Game over man!) and Paul’s Boutique by the Beastie Boys.

On September 25th, I published an article with Showbams entitled “What To Do if The Police Stop You at a Music Festival“. If you haven’t read it you can find it here.

That original Showbams article started getting reblogged on other sites and tweeted and shared and re-shared on Facebook. Ultimately, it ended up going “viral”.

How viral? Well, the article has had over 250,000 unique views. It ended up receiving over 30 thousand Facebook likes. But I knew we were truly viral when someone in Australia asked me, “Is there an Australian version of this article that explains Australian law?”

If you’ve read this far, I know you think I am about to pull a Kanye and announce that I am now a “A Legal God” and want to be referred to as “Festival Yeezus Lawyer” from now on.

Sadly, no. I am not quitting my day job. However, I think the article went viral due to the fact that “doing whatever the police tell you” is not really what Jefferson had in mind when he came up with that whole Bill of Rights thing. And because we all recognize that the Founding Fathers wanted an educated, empowered citizenry who kept an eye on their police. And because a heck of lot folks have found that getting into a bad situation with a cop and not knowing your rights is one of the scariest things that can happen to you at a festival.

So despite the obvious danger, I really think a sequel is needed to talk about the great comments and reactions the first article generated. Wish me luck.

ADDITIONAL TIP 1: Educate yourself on how to legally record cops in your home state.

I had a LOT of lawyers in other states write me to tell me I had given bad advice about videotaping police making arrests. In particular I had several lawyers tell me that my advice was going to get someone going to Lollapalooza arrested. Their point was that Illinois had a law making it a felony to record video of an encounter with a cop. Several other attorneys pointed out that their own states had similar “wiretapping” laws.

Nice try, but when it comes to the Festival Lawyer, “There can be only one” (*Highlander theme plays*)

The actual law in this area is that in Illinois (home to Lollapalooza), the American Civil Liberties Union recently won a challenge to this law. A federal judge issued a permanent ban on enforcing the law. Also, almost every state has an exception for videotaping where there is no “reasonable expectation of privacy”.

I started to write up a little clarification of different State laws in this area and give some tips on videotaping the police. But one of the great things about this article was that it caused me to finally get to talk to the amazing Steve Silverman at www.flexyourrights.org.

Turns out he had already written a great article explaining EXACTLY what you need to know to record the police in any state and in any scenario.

However, this is an excellent reminder to always do your own research and find out the law in your home state. I am a California lawyer and your state may have very different laws. So even though I just teased them slightly, I want to thank the out of state lawyers who took the time to contact me. Please keep the comments and questions coming.

ADDITIONAL TIP 2: Recording cops? There’s an app for that.

Several people also pointed out that there are numerous apps that allow you to upload your videos to the “cloud”. (For the purposes of this article, let’s just collectively pretend that I know what the cloud is and how it freaking works rather than get ourselves bogged down in unnecessary details.) The point is that you may need to have your video of the cops instantly uploaded to a secure location so that you have it in case your phone is taken from you or damaged.

As commenter “sarahrwilson” wrote:

As to making a video recording, the key is to also stream it from the phone so regardless of what the police do to the device, there will at least be a copy of the video they can’t touch. The ACLU of NJ has an app for I-phone or Android that does exactly that.

The ACLU has provided a collection of Apps on their website that lets you upload cell phone videos to the cloud immediately.

Festival Lawyer Protégé Tip: At the same time you download your Festival’s app, download the ACLU ‘cloud’ app, just in case.

ADDITIONAL TIP 3: These are “Break Glass – Only Use In An Emergency” tips.

A few members of law enforcement wrote in to point out that taking an immediately aggressive tone could actually inflame the situation:

As a police officer, I initially read this on the assumption I was looking at another story of how to “politely disrespect” officers (LEOs). I was pleasantly surprised to see that this was, in fact, a well-written article by an educated member of our society that gives valuable information on how not to become a victim of over zealous officers. That being said, I’d like to add that all of these tactics are great if you aren’t doing anything wrong; however festivalgoers and the likes should know the reason LEOs are at these events is ensure people have a safe and fun time. If you’re actually doing wrong, these tactics only stall the inevitable and eventually, you will be arrested and face the courts for your misdeed.

Also, recording an event does set the tone (from an officer’s point of view) that you are being non compliant and confrontational. Exercise your own good judgement, and don’t get excitable. Much like the open carry activist, if you handle law enforcement with respect, they will most likely return the favor.

I mainly quoted the above comment because it makes me look good. But besides that, it makes a valuable point. If I could add just one thing to the original article it would be that these tips are essentially a “BREAK GLASS – USE IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY” toolkit.

I think it was implied before but let’s add a step zero – be nice and treat the cop like a fellow human being. Personally, I hate when people wear “fuck the police” shirts to a concert. It’s not how I feel. And it sends a super negative vibe and message. I hold a huge amount of respect for the police and for the law. But I am also an Educated, Empowered, Positive US citizen. That means I love my Country, and want to make her better, but I don’t necessarily trust all of her employees. The comments page is FULL of real life innocent festivalgoers who ran head on into a bad situation: A sexist cop. A racist cop. An overly aggressive cop. A cop who didn’t like someone’s sexual orientation. Or a cop who just wanted to fuck with someone. (Not to get too legal or technical with you). You need to be prepared for THOSE situations.

All of that brings me to my final tip…

ADDITIONAL TIP 4: Educate and empower yourself, even if you don’t ever plan on doing “anything wrong” at a festival.

In some ways, Festivals can be kind of a clash of two worlds.

Cops see themselves as being present at Festivals to keep the peace, and to keep people safe. Festivalgoers see fests as a playground that consenting adults can attend, and the normal rules of society don’t necessarily apply. When you add in some super crazy choices we have made as a society about drug laws, there is always the potential for things to go really badly, really quickly.

That’s because there is a small percentage of cops who feel the drug war really is a war. And in wars, normal rules don’t apply. (People use the phrase “All’s Fair in Love and War” for a reason.) Added to that are police agencies who are not there to “keep the peace” at all. They are there instead to “keep the quota” and make arrests for stats. One of the many examples from the comments to the article should suffice:

Wish I had seen this a few months ago! After leaving (a music festival in an RV my husband and I were pulled over for an “Illegal lane change”. After the cop asked a bunch of questions, he nicely asked if he could take a look inside to make sure we didn’t have any “weapons or dead bodies inside”. Of course we stupidly said yes…becuz we didn’t want him to think we had either of these things inside. Upon entering the RV, he claimed that the straws in our garbage can are considered “paraphernalia” so he then had the right to search the entire vehicle. He made us stand 50-feet away while we watched him take apart the RV with an electric drill. He dumped out all my vitamins and medication into one big pile on the floor, open up all my cosmetics, went through my dirty (personal) clothes, dumped out all our food, and tore apart the lining on our RV rental. He then gave us tickets for the straws since in the state of Arkansas, “paraphernalia” is a crime. We didn’t argue or say anything, figured that was in our best interest. But because we (live out of state) we couldn’t exactly travel back to Arkansas to defend ourselves. We had to hire a local lawyer (that never met us) to defend us. My husband got the charges dropped against him, but the cop was adamant that one of us get charged with paraphernalia – so lucky, I am a mom, and had no record. I was coming from a music festival in an RV. Everyone I spoke to told me we should have NEVER let him search the vehicle, but I didn’t know my rights or the law. We were just scared.

So at this time, let’s all repeat the Festival Lawyer’s motto together:

“Better to know your rights and not need them, than to need your rights and not know them.”

More than anything I wanted to write a sequel so I could have a chance to thank you all. The idea of a legal article with zero cats in it going viral is seriously insane. But it did. And because of that, I got to meet a bunch of amazing people and had some really cool conversations. Believe me when I say I enjoyed being the “legal advice meme” for my entire 15 seconds (that’s not a typo) of internet fame.

Next Column: How to “upgrade” your entire Festival experience without spending a dime.

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What to do if the police stop you at a music festival


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I know what you are thinking. What the heck’s a Festival Lawyer?

Is it a Public Defender who helps you out if you get arrested at a concert? No. (Although, to be honest, I wish I had thought of that as a job option after law school).

I’m a criminal defense attorney with a background as a former prosecutor. But I also have a background as a drummer, a DJ, and avid festivalgoer. The idea behind “The Festival Lawyer” column is to combine these backgrounds to give you legal and practical advice that will make you a safer, more responsible festivalgoer.

Advice like how to protect your rights if the police approach you at a concert. Or how to recognize the symptoms of a drug or alcohol overdose. We will talk about things like California’s Medical Marijuana laws or what to do if stopped for a DUI on your way to a concert. But mainly, the column will be focused on how we can make the Festival Experience work better for everyone as a more responsible, positive community.

As an aside, I’ve noticed that as soon as I start talking about knowing your rights, a certain percentage of people start complaining that I am somehow “teaching people how to commit crimes.”

This is dangerous nonsense. We don’t live in a police state (well, not yet anyway). As citizens it is not only our right but our duty to know and defend our Constitutional Rights and keep an eye on the police.

Anyway, let’s start with a hypothetical situation where the police stop you out of the blue in the middle of a music festival and start questioning you. They don’t say why they are stopping you but just immediately ask permission to search your person and backpack.

What should you do?

1. Like the Clash said, “Know Your Rights.”

Okay, quick criminal procedure tutorial.

In any encounter with the police, a Judge will be looking after the fact at whether the police had a right to stop you in the first place. This is because the 4th Amendment of the Constitution says that you have a right as a citizen to freely go about your business unless the police can show they had a belief you were engaged in criminal activity.

What the police have to show to a Judge later depends completely on whether the Judge finds that you were being “arrested”, “detained” or were “free to leave”.

If the police arrest you, they have to show they had “Probable Cause” to believe you were committing a crime.

On the other hand, the police will probably argue that they weren’t arresting you but just “detaining” you. A “detention” is a situation where the police stop you briefly while they investigate a crime but haven’t arrested you yet. In a detention, the police have a much lower burden of proof. They only have to show a “reasonable suspicion” as to why they were detaining you. Or the police may argue that their entire contact with you was just a “consensual encounter” where you were free to go at anytime. In a consensual encounter, they don’t really need to justify why they stopped you because they were just talking to you and you were “free to leave”, (Because people always feel free to walk away when contacted by the police, right?)

2. Remember the Festival Lawyer’s Key Phrases.

So knowing the above, what should you do If a cop stops you?

The first question out of your mouth should be, “Am I being detained?” Then, “Why? What am being stopped for? Am I free to go, or am I under arrest?”

Memorize this. Repeat it out loud: “Am I being detained? Why? Am I free to go, or am I under arrest?”

Yes I am aware that like the cop in 99 Problems, the cop may not appreciate you being so “sharp as a tack” and view you as a potential troublemaker.

So your job in this situation is to keep calm and cool. Be respectful but clear and firm in what you are saying. It is completely reasonable (and legal) to ask why you are being stopped and whether you are free to go. By asking from the start if you are under arrest or free to leave you are forcing the officer to tell you exactly what is happening and whether you are a suspect.

3. Miranda Rights: Myths vs. Reality

One of the most common urban myths out there is that the police have to read you your Miranda rights or the arrest gets thrown out of court.

Not true. The police don’t have to read you these rights. In fact, the police have the right to completely lie to you in any interview. The only time they have to read Miranda rights is if:

  • A) You are under arrest
  • B) They want to use a statement you made after being arrested in court against you.

The Right against Self Incrimination is in the Bill of Rights for a reason. USE IT. You should NEVER give a statement to the police without a lawyer. Period. No exceptions.

In the above scenario, questions like “whose backpack is this?” should be answered with a firm, “Officer, I am choosing to remain silent. I want a lawyer.”

4. Do not give the authorities consent to search you.

One other major Constitutional right you have is the right to be free from an unlawful search of your person and property.

So lets say you are already in a Festival when the police approach you. They won’t let you leave and ask for permission to search your backpack. (Obviously, security has a right to search you as you enter a festival and go through their initial security screening.)

Cops always make it seem like you’re some kind of a criminal if you express the slightest hesitation about having your property searched without a warrant. You can expect to hear an “If you have nothing to hide, why can’t we search your stuff?” type of verbal approach from the cops.

Know this…If the police are asking you permission to search you or your property, it usually means they know they are making an illegal search. Let that sink in for a second. When the police ask you “Can I search this bag?”, they KNOW they are asking you to let them make a search they are not legally entitled to make.

My advice? Respectfully tell the police officer, “I’m not giving you consent to search my property.” If they ask what you have to hide, don’t argue with them. Simply say again, “Officer, I’m sorry I’m not giving you consent to search my person or my property. If I’m free to leave I’d like to leave. If not, I’d like a lawyer please…”

At this point, they can still search you if they have probable cause, but what you’ve done with your statements is make them declare their reason for doing so and force them to show they are legally entitled to search you.

5. Document the Encounter.

In future columns we are going to talk a lot about what a Festival Buddy is and what their responsibilities are. In this scenario, the Festival Buddy’s job isn’t to yell “Hey man leave him alone” or drunkenly argue with the cops. Festival Buddy’s job is to whip out his or cell phone and document the entire encounter.

SPOILER ALERT – COPS REALLY FREAKING HATE THIS. The best thing to happen to Civil Liberties in this country was the invention of the cell phone camera and YouTube. But just bear in mind, cops will do just about anything to avoid having you upload your video of them on YouTube or on Social Media.

This is an area where your own comfort level has to dictate how far you push it. Legally, since you are in a public place you are completely entitled to film and record what is happening. But cops will sometimes argue that you are “interfering with an investigation” and threaten to arrest you. Or if you have had anything to drink they will suddenly decide that you are “publicly intoxicated” and try to arrest you. As a Festival Buddy you have to decide if you can safely film what is happening. That’s because your other job as FB is to stay out of custody and post bail and let your buddy’s family know he just got arrested.

I suggest that you say the following if cops order you to turn off your camera.

“Officer, I’m not interfering with you in any way. I am just documenting this arrest. This is a public place and I’m entitled to record this”.

While making this statement, I would make a show of backing up and getting out of the way to prove that you are not interfering but just observing.

If that doesn’t work and your Latin is good you can just tell them, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes” (pssst…that’s a joke but go ahead and Google it kids)

If things get crazier, be sure to get footage of the cop screaming “turn that camera off” before you turn it off. Everyone (You Tube, Media, Juries, Internal Affairs) loves footage of cops screaming “turn off that camera” to a calm person who is doing nothing but saying “I’m not interfering, just watching to make sure you are following the law.”

Okay that’s it for this column. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Festivallawyer and be sure to tweet at me for comments on this story or future story ideas. I’ll be back in two weeks with a new column!

Read the Festival Lawyer’s follow up article, highlighting the best reactions and responding to the most pertinent questions from this article.

BIO – The Festival Lawyer is not a professional writer (duh). I am also not a journalist or concert promoter. I am just a fan who has gone to concerts all my life. I like to say that I’ve gone to a “saw Pink Floyd, The Clash, White Stripes before they broke up” and “I wish I had started wearing ear plugs a long time ago” years-worth of concerts. I’m hoping you will consider The Festival Lawyer your legal spirit guide.

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