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Burning Man Update: The Jack Rabbit Speaks
Volume 14, Issue #28: LAW ENFORCEMENT
August 6, 2010

====================TABLE OF CONTENTS=======================



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While Burning Man is certainly a remote and freewheeling place, it's also a functioning metropolis. And just like any other city, numerous law enforcement agencies patrol Black Rock City day and night. Not to toss a wet towel on your fun, but ... yes, all Federal, State and Local laws still exist at Burning Man, and any illegal action witnessed by law enforcement can lead to a citation or your arrest. And that? Would really suck. Your best protection is to obey the law.

In order to give you the best understanding of how law enforcement works at Burning Man, how to interact with a law enforcement officer, and how to protect your Constituional rights, professionals in the extended Burning Man community have generously provided the following information.

It's well worth a thorough read through, and even committing parts to memory ... like how to speak to a law enforcement officer.  Believe the Rabbit.


===============LAW ENFORCEMENT AT BURNING MAN=================



Officers from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) patrol throughout Black Rock City and the surrounding Black Rock Desert. BLM Rangers typically wear tan pants and short-sleeved shirts with the Department of the Interior/BLM logo on their sleeves.  Investigative BLM agents work undercover and dress like any other Burning Man participant ... even in costume (People who ask for gifts of drugs or ask to trade or buy drugs are acting outside of our 10 Principles and should not be trusted).  Please remember, medical marijuana cards from any state are NOT admissible at the Burning Man event.  Even if you have a Nevada medical marijuana card, the event is on federal land, and the BLM are federal law enforcement.  They will act in accordance with federal law, under which all use and possession of marijuana is illegal. BLM Rangers and Agents are primarily concerned with violations of federal laws.

Another law enforcement group you may see or encounter in Black Rock City is the Pershing County Sheriff's Office, which is also supported by officers from other counties. They usually wear gray/light blue short-sleeved polo shirts. Their primary task is enforcing state and local laws within Black Rock City. This includes the law stating that it is illegal for any person under 21 to consume alcohol.  Law enforcement has, in the past and probably again in 2010, conducted operations in search of bars gifting alcoholic beverages to minors.  If you are operating such a bar, please be sure to check identification of anyone who may look even close to under 21 to avoid potentially receiving a fine of about $1,100.  If you think you may stop at a bar for a drink, it would be best to carry your ID in a secure place, ready to display if requested.  And if you get carded, THANK YOUR BARTENDER for keeping Black Rock City a safe and welcome environment for people of all ages.

The Washoe County Sheriff's Office can also be found close at hand, primarily patrolling the nearby town of Gerlach.  They wear green uniforms, and are concerned mainly with keeping the traffic moving and ensuring that Burning Man participants respect local citizens' privacy and property.  Please be sure that all head and tail lights on your vehicle are working properly, your registration is up-to-date, and your license plate is clearly visible, to avoid an unscheduled stop on your way to the playa.

Some years (and 2010 happens to be one of them), the Nevada Department of Investigations (NDI) patrols undercover in Black Rock City, looking for drug trafficking.  Remember, in the State of Nevada even gifting someone a small quantity of a controlled substance can rise to the level of drug trafficking.  Please obey the law and avoid being arrested for drug trafficking.

The Nevada State Health Division is also present.  Their goal is to protect the health of our citizens and prevent food-borne epidemics, or other health hazards.



The Black Rock Rangers are Burning Man participants who volunteer time and effort as non-confrontational community mediators. Responding to the continuously evolving nature of the event, Rangers are usually the first to address situations within the community that would otherwise require outside intervention, aiding in the prevention of escalation to that level.  By encouraging and facilitating communication, the Rangers promote awareness of potential hazards, from sunstroke to tent fires.

LEAL is an acronym for Law Enforcement Agency Liaison.  The LEAL Team is comprised of volunteer Black Rock Rangers who are specifically trained to interact with law enforcement on the playa.  They don't directly deal with violations of the law, but they are available to help bridge the gap between our ethos and culture, and the duties and responsibilities of law enforcement officers working on the playa. One or more representatives of this team will be on duty around the clock during the event.  They often wear some item of zebra print clothing, along with their Ranger shirts, to help identify them.  You can contact a LEAL team member by asking at Ranger Headquarters in Center Camp, or asking any Black Rock Ranger you see to radio for their assistance.

It is important to remember that Black Rock Rangers (including LEAL team members) are not law enforcement personnel.  They are members of the Burning Man community, just like you.  You can identify them by their khaki-colored attire, featuring the familiar Burning Man logo in brown on their backs and chests. You should feel free to request their assistance at any time.



It is important to remember that for the Burning Man event to take place, law enforcement are a required and necessary presence.  Without them, not only would the BLM not issue a permit because the event on federal lands, but the State of Nevada would not allow such a large assembly without enforcement of state laws.  Furthermore, the Burning Man Project is concerned with the safety and protection of its participants, and would not even consider holding such a large-scale event without law enforcement's expertise and assistance.

So how can you as a participant be prepared in the instance that you have an encounter with law enforcement at Burning Man?

First, it is very helpful to understand the law enforcement's concerns, rationales, and potential behaviors on playa and the situations you may encounter (as well as the legal consequences it can engender). This information is found in a concise and readable form in the Law Enforcement section of the Survival Guide.  (The Survival Guide has been mailed out to all ticket holders, and is available on at:

Second, you should remember that the playa is a place to fully express and be yourself.  Please choose the behaviors you feel comfortable engaging in on playa before you arrive and become potentially swept away by the events of the moment.

Third, you need to look outside yourself and consider your campmates and  traveling companions in your decisions. Do not let their choices and their behavior put you in legal jeopardy, and do not let yours endanger them.

Fourth, familiarize yourself with this year's areas of concern for law enforcement (see the next section).

Finally, you could help the Burning Man Project improve every year by completing a Law Enforcement Feedback Form on playa this year (see below).

Many Burners find it useful to consider law enforcement officers who work the Burning Man event to be participants with differing agendas, differing levels of playa experience and differing levels of Burner acculturation. In the past, many (if not most) law enforcement officers were "playa experienced" and worked the event year after year. Many of them made it a personal choice to come to Burning Man and worked the event. They looked forward to returning to the playa year after year and grew to appreciate and understand the culture of Burning Man.

However, as our event has grown over the years, more and more law enforcement officers have had to be brought in to keep pace with our population growth. For example, we have simply outgrown the limited resources of the Pershing County Sheriff's Office based in Lovelock, and they now have to bring in officers from other Nevada jurisdictions to supplement their own numbers.  Similar policies affect BLM's staffing.

As many of you already know, any Burning Man newbie has a pretty steep learning curve upon arriving on the playa, living in Black Rock City and experiencing Burning Man. Lots of folks cannot readily absorb the kaleidoscope of sights, sounds, and human interaction that spring from the Burning Man experience, and it takes them a while to adjust and to adapt. This challenge is heightened by the fact that Black Rock City only exists for a week. This process is made more difficult for Burning Man law enforcement officers because they arrive on playa with a pre-defined set of criteria (the laws they are sworn to enforce); they are not at liberty to discard or even selectively enforce these laws.

Unfortunately, some officers also arrive with pre-conceived ideas about Burning Man, which may or may not align with reality. The result is a predictable (perhaps even inevitable) clash between the values and behaviors that are the tapestry of the Burning Man culture, and many of law enforcement's perceptions about their role as the designated law enforcement force on playa.

As you can tell from observing law enforcement's behavior on playa, and as you can conclude from the changing/evolving content of each year's Survival Guide, the priorities and agenda(s) of law enforcement can often shift from year to year. This is a function of many factors, including changes in law enforcement personnel, changes in Black Rock City citizen behaviors, changes in Burner population and demographics, and changes in pressure and priorities from entities and sources outside of Burning Man and law enforcement.

The Burning Man Project would like to thank all law enforcement agencies at Black Rock for their 15 years of ongoing cooperative effort.  The law enforcement presence at Burning Man is for public safety.  They provide numerous instances of invaluable services for the good of the community, as public servants.  We all have jobs to do, whether patrolling the streets of Black Rock or sliding down a giant wedge of astro-turf, why don't we try to get along?  Let's respect one another on the playa and practice a little of that radical inclusion we keep talking about.

J. Duane Hoover
Law Enforcement & Agency Liaison (LEAL) Team Manager
Black Rock Rangers
The Burning Man Project



It is important to remember that all Federal, State and Local laws still exist at Burning Man.  THE USE AND TRAFFICKING OF ILLEGAL SUBSTANCES IS PROHIBITED.  Also, MEDICAL MARIJUANA IS NOT LEGAL AT THE BURNING MAN EVENT.

There is usually an emphasis on patrolling Gate Road and at Greeter stations early in the event, as heavy traffic can create unsafe conditions.  Even though Gate Road is part of Black Rock City, this is not where mutant vehicles should be operated—unless your mutant vehicle is street legal and your mode of transportation into the event.  Stick to the rules of the road while entering Black Rock City — headlights on at night, no passengers on the roof or hanging off the side.  Wait until you receive your official sticker from DMV before allowing your vehicle to fully mutate into the bar car, public taxi or art that it is meant to be. Headlights and taillights on art cars will also be monitored while on playa.

Remember that once you arrive at your campsite, driving is prohibited except for DMV licensed mutant vehicles.   NO SPEEDING anywhere in Black Rock City, including Gate Road! Please be forewarned that this can be used as a rationale to pull over your vehicle.

NO OPEN ALCOHOLIC CONTAINERS in the driver's area of moving vehicles.  An open container does not have to be in the driver's possession. Sitting in the center console and being consumed by the passenger is enough to be a violation. The vehicle does not have to be in motion. The bottom line — no driving with an open container in the driver's compartment at any time, particularly on Gate Road and Greeters stations.

NO UNDERAGE DRINKING. At Burning Man, we want you to let go of your inhibitions and feel fully free to discover and express yourself.  We believe everyone is perfectly capable of reaching this level of freedom without the aid of any intoxicating substances (after all, what is more intoxicating than walking along the esplanade at night?), and even more strongly believe that all of the citizens of Black Rock City can experience all that Burning Man has to offer without breaking the law.  If you are running a bar or camp that gifts alcoholic beverages, please be sure to check identification of anyone that may look under 21, no matter how "burnery" they seem.  If you are planning to drink, as in any city, town, or event, please carry your ID in a safe and secure location.  If you are under 21, please feel free to explore and engage in all the magic and wonder that Black Rock City has to offer, as long as you do it according to the law, and alcohol-free.

For more information see:

BLM's 2010 Burning Man Temporary Closure Order
[new link?]

Burning Man 2010 Survival Guide



Quick facts for foreign visitors about driving in the United States
1.     An International Driving Permit (IDP) translates information contained on your driver's license into 10 languages so that officials in foreign countries are able to interpret your license. An IDP supplements a valid government-issued license--it does not serve as a replacement for a license. If you are stopped by law enforcement, you will most likely be asked to produce both your IDP and your official driver's license. The United States does NOT issue International Driving Permits to foreign visitors, so you will need to obtain this document before traveling to the U.S.
2.     If you are going to reside in the U.S., you can get a U.S. driver's license once you are in the U.S., but it may take several months to obtain a U.S. driver's license.
3.     Foreign visitors who become U.S. residents can only obtain a driver's license from the state in which they reside (not from the federal government). Each state has its own driving rules and regulations. Check with your state's motor vehicles department to find out how to apply.
4.     Once you receive your U.S. driver's license from a state motor vehicles department, you will be permitted to drive in all other U.S. states. The laws in each state vary from one to another. It is your responsibility to know and obey the laws of that state while driving.
5.     The residency requirement for obtaining a U.S. driver's license varies with each state. Consult the motor vehicles department in your state for more information.
6.     If you are a foreign student coming to the U.S. to study, contact the university or college you will attend, as most institutions provide students with additional driving information.
7.     The U.S. government has issued warnings about Internet vendors of worthless international driver's licenses/permits. It is important to educate yourself about the dangers of these costly and illegal operations. See International Driver's License Warning from Federal Trade Commission.



If you experience or witness an encounter with law enforcement on the playa this year, whether it's positive or negative, the Burning Man Project would like to hear about it.  Each participant will receive a feedback form at the Greeter’s Station.  THey are also available at Ranger Headquarters in Center Camp, and at the Ranger Outposts in the 3:00 and 9:00 o'clock plazas.  The quicker you can provide us with your feedback, the more effective we can be at following up on situations that occur.

Please try to provide accurate information about the date, time, and location of any incidents, as much detail as you can provide about the officer(s) involved and a clear account of what you saw and heard.  We are looking for badge numbers, law enforcement vehicle license plate numbers, an accurate description of the officer's agency affiliation, their uniform description and their vehicle description. The facts of the interaction need to be presented as clearly as possible in order for the report to be of maximum utility. Names and contact information for any additional witnesses are also helpful.

These reports are gathered by the Black Rock Rangers LEAL Team (see above) and are presented and discussed at the daily afternoon meeting with law enforcement.  A 2:00 PM deadline ensures inclusion of the report in that day's meeting. The purpose is to inform law enforcement of their observed behaviors and to hopefully shape those behaviors on playa. Important note: Burning Man recognizes that negative feedback can arise as a natural consequence of unfolding events. However, positive Law Enforcement Feedback Form reports are also important. Law enforcement often performs valuable community services at Burning Man, and these acts also need to be recognized so that they can be reinforced and encouraged. If you'd like to make a report in person, ask to speak to a member of the LEAL team.



The Nevada Chapter of the ACLU will be at Playa Info to answer any questions you may have about interacting with law enforcement in Black Rock City.  If you want to know what to do if you happen to be stopped for questioning by law, enforcement then come on by.  Were you searched? Received a citation?  Come on by.

Tuesday through Thursday: 6:00 PM to 11:00 PM
Friday through Monday: 12:00 Noon to 9:00 PM



Lawyers For Burners is a volunteer organization that helps participants find lawyers after they have been cited or arrested at the event, or otherwise have issues with treatment by law enforcement personnel. For more information, visit:



When Can the Police Stop and Search Me?*

The Supreme Court has ruled that law enforcement may briefly stop you to ask for your identity without probable cause of a crime; if this occurs, you should be truthful, as lying to an officer may be a crime. However, an officer may not require you to answer additional questions, detain, or search you without either 1) consent or 2) probable cause.

An officer may ask your consent to search you or your belongings, but in order to be valid consent, a reasonable person must understand that he or she could refuse to cooperate.  This means that intimidating tactics, such as blocking a door or surrounding a person with numerous officers, are likely coercive situations where consent is not truly voluntary.  Your refusal to give consent does not constitute probable cause for search.

Without consent, the Fourth Amendment states that warrantless searches and arrests can only be performed when there is probable cause that a crime has occurred. An officer must be able to point to specific facts indicating criminal activity that give rise to probable cause; mere suspicion or a “hunch” is not enough.  Nor can otherwise legal items alone – a mint tin or a cigar, for example – be used to support probable cause without additional evidence of illegal activity.

* This is not legal advice.  This is information digesting the general state of the law.  We urge you to consult a lawyer for legal advice about a particular legal question or issue you may have.  If you believe you are coerced into giving consent for a search, or that you are searched without probable cause, you may wish to contact the ACLU of Nevada, at

 How to Speak to Law Enforcement**

Remember that your best defense against citation or arrest may be politeness.  However, nothing requires you to incriminate yourself, and an officer may cite you for revealing any illegal behavior.

Officer, my name is [give your real name].
Am I free to go?
If I am not free to go, please explain to me your probable cause for stopping me.
I politely refuse to give you any further information.
I do not consent to any search of me or my belongings, tent, vehicle or camp.

**This information is provided as a courtesy from Lawyers for Burners.  For more information, visit:

Remember, this is legal information, not legal advice, which is an interpretation of the applicable law to specific circumstances. We urge you to consult a lawyer for legal advice about a particular legal question or issue you may have.



BLM's 2010 Burning Man Temporary Closure Order

Burning Man Survival Guide, on at:
The Survival Guide lists all of the illegal activities on playa, and tells you how to conduct yourself if you are stopped for questioning.

Know Your Rights: The ACLU publishes a guide on What To Do If You're Stopped by Police on the ACLU website at:

Know Your Rights Videos: Flex Your Rights offers free videos online on how to behave if stopped by law enforcement on their website at:


==================CONNECT WITH BURNING MAN====================


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Visit our own Lyceum and engage with published authors, bloggers and thinkers in and around the Burning Man community as they observe and comment on our culture and like-minded cultures around the world:

The Official Burning Man Facebook Page:

Official Burning Man Twitter Account - All Things Burning Man:

Black Rock City Twitter Account - All Things BRC:


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