Summer's Here and the Time is Right for ... Getting Busted Going to the Festival

By Expat98 · Jun 13, 2008 · ·
  1. Expat98
    A good reminder of taking basic precautions and knowing your rights and how to handle yourself if stopped on the road.

    The money quote:

    Summer's Here and the Time is Right for ... Getting Busted Going to the Festival (If You're Not Careful)

    By Phillip S. Smith, Drug War Chronicle.
    Posted June 5, 2008.

    Music lovers this summer should be prepared to encounter drug checkpoints and undercover cops working inside the festival grounds.

    With Memorial Day now just a memory, the summer music festival season is on -- and with it, special drug law enforcement aimed at festival goers in what could be called a form of cultural profiling. If years past are any indicator, music lovers should be prepared to encounter everything from announced "Drug Checkpoints" that aren't -- they are instead traps to lure the freaked out -- to real, unconstitutional, highway drug checkpoints masquerading as "safety checks" (complete with drug dogs) to undercover cops working inside the festival grounds themselves.

    Nationally known festivals like Bonaroo in Tennessee and Wakarusa in Kansas, as well as countless lesser festivals, especially in rural areas, have drawn special law enforcement efforts in the past. With this year unlikely to be any different, festival goers will need to know their rights and how to exercise them when they encounter the cops.

    The police enforcement actions are already getting underway. Last weekend, the 2008 Summer Camp Festival in Chillicothe, Illinois, drew some 13,000 fans to hear a diverse line-up of bands including the Flaming Lips, George Clinton & Parliament/Funkadelic, Blind Melon, the Roots, and the New Pornographers. It also drew city and state police, who claimed 20 drug arrests -- for marijuana, ecstasy, and LSD -- between them in and around the festival.

    The police were pleased. "I think a lot of it had to do with all of the agencies getting together before the event and really planning out our attack," Chillicothe Police Chief Steven Maurer told local HOI-19 TV News. "Our goal is to prevent it from coming in and that's what we did a lot of."

    Meanwhile, down in northeast Georgia, some other law enforcement agencies had also gotten together to plan an attack. This one wasn't aimed directly at concert-goers, but at the highway-traveling public in general. In what the Northeast Georgian described as "one of the county's largest highway interdiction and safety checks in at least five years," personnel from the Habersham County Sheriff's Office, Northeast Georgia Drug Task Force, Georgia National Guard Counter Drug Task Force, Georgia State Patrol, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia Department of Public Safety Motor Carrier Compliance Unit, Lee Arrendale State Prison, Phillips State Prison and Cornelia Police Department participated in a 24-hour checkpoint on a local highway.

    Police bragged about the success of their checkpoint, which netted 74 arrests, 31 of them for drug offenses. "It worked well, I thought," said Habersham County Sheriff De Ray Fincher. "The operation resulted in a seizure of $36,000 in illegal drugs. And a total amount of currency, drugs and vehicles seized is estimated to have a value of $82,000."

    Police did write some tickets for traffic offenses, Fincher told WNEG-TV 32 News. "We got a lot of people with no insurance, no driver's license or suspended license," he said. And some pot smokers: "The majority of our cases were marijuana cases; however, we did get several methamphetamine and we got one case of cocaine," Fincher explained.

    In a 2000 Supreme Court decision, Indianapolis v. Edmonds, the high court held that indiscriminate highway drug checkpoints were unconstitutional since motorists were being stopped without suspicion for a law enforcement -- not a public safety -- purpose.

    But Fincher was open about his constitutionally-suspect highway checkpoint. "We are trying to do everything we can to prevent drug activity in Habersham County, whether it's just passing through or stopping here," he said, noting that drug arrests in the county were on the rise. "That just means we've taken a real aggressive approach to drug enforcement."

    "In the wake of the Indianapolis case, law enforcement has tried to figure out ways to still conduct drug checkpoints that comport with that ruling," said Adam Wolf of the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project. "Intent is the name of the game. If the intent is to conduct a checkpoint basically for law enforcement purposes, that's not okay. If it's for public safety purposes, such as sobriety checkpoints, that is okay."

    A constitutional challenge to any given checkpoint would turn on intent, said Wolf. "If it turns out the intent was primarily to be a drug checkpoint, that would be an unreasonable search and not comply with the Constitution," he said. "That kind of checkpoint should be shut down, but it would take someone to challenge it."

    Noting Sheriff Fincher's report of cash and goods seized, Wolf suggested the purpose of the checkpoints could really be about something other than law enforcement or public safety. "So often these things are being done to fund law enforcement agencies. Asset forfeiture is really a cash cow," he said.

    Whether the checkpoints or other special law enforcement tactics are to raise money, wage the drug war, or indeed for "public safety," experts consulted by the Chronicle sang a remarkably similar song: Be prepared, don't be stupid, and don't give away your rights.

    "The most efficient way to get arrested for marijuana possession short of blowing pot smoke in an officer's face is to smoke marijuana while driving or parked in your car, especially on the way to a festival," said Steven Silverman of the civil liberties group Flex Your Rights, which has released a video instructing people how to flex theirs. "You have a minimal expectation of privacy, and it reeks. Officers can smell it, and if they can smell it, that's probable cause to search you."

    "Keep your private items out of view," recommended the ACLU's Wolf. A baggie full of weed on the front seat is all the probable cause an officer needs to search the vehicle and arrest the owner.

    "The only sure thing to do is not to carry," said Keith Stroup, founder and currently senior counsel for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). "But the problem with that is there may or may not be good marijuana available at the festivals. If you're going to bring something with you, keep the quantity as small as possible, and for God's sake, don't smoke in the car!"

    If you are stopped at a checkpoint (or pulled over for any reason) and you haven't provided police probable cause to search you or your vehicle, now is the time to exercise your rights. People in such situations should be polite but assertive, the experts said.

    "If you are pulled over by police for any reason, the officers are very likely to ask you to consent to a search," said Silverman. "Don't do it. Never, ever consent under any circumstances. It might be couched in terms of a command, but it is a request. If you consent, you are waiving your Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. They won't 'go easier' on you; anything they find, they will confiscate, and arrest you and put you in jail. Don't do their job for them."

    "There is no circumstance I can imagine where you should ever consent to a search," agreed NORML's Stroup. "If you give permission, you waive your Fourth Amendment protections. They may say it'll go easier if you cooperate, but that's bullshit. Their only reason for being there is to see if you have contraband and arrest you and put you in jail if you do."

    "Just say no to warrantless searches," echoed the ACLU's Wolf. "Officers won't tell you you have the right not to consent, but you do, and it is one that people have held dear since the founding of the Republic."

    There are other highway hazards for the unwary festival-goer. Law enforcement can be creative in its unending war on drug users and sellers.

    "Anybody driving to see his favorite band should also be aware of fake drug checkpoints," said Silverman. "Drug checkpoints are unconstitutional, but what some sheriffs will do close to festival sites is set up a big 'Drug Checkpoint Ahead' sign, and then watch who turns off the highway at the next ramp or who throws something out his car window. Then they pull them over for littering or failure to signal a lane change or something. If you see such a sign, keep driving -- it's a bluff designed to see who it scares."

    "When you see a sign like that, proceed ahead within the speed limit, driving safely through the area," advised Wolf.

    Wolf has problems with the harassment of festival-goers that run deeper than particular law enforcement tactics. "Profiling based on race is not okay, profiling based on gender is not okay, and profiling based on the type of concert you attend is not okay," he said. "It's unreasonable and unjustifiable for police to target a group of people because they are going to any particular type of concert."

    "Simply having a Grateful Dead sticker or dreadlocks doesn't constitute reasonable suspicion of anything," agreed Silverman.

    But in the real world, it can. Festival-goers and other highway travelers need to be aware of their rights, as well as the realities of life in the contemporary US, as they hit the highway this summer.

    And one last thing once you actually make it to the festival. "There's a big myth out there that police officers must reveal if they're an undercover cop," said Silverman. "That's wrong, and it's stupid to believe that. Police officers can and do legally lie in doing their jobs. Believing that has probably led to thousands of people being arrested."

    Phillip S. Smith is a writer and editor for Drug Reform Coordination Network.


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  1. fnord
    Stand your ground at checkpoints they will try to tell you that you could end up sitting there all day if you don't let them search but thats bullshit,they will try saying they can just get a warrant if you don't cooperate and hold you until then,but once again its all lies. Stand up for your rights and dont be a moron and you will be all set. Grandmas been past many sobriety check points while carrying less then legal items and has always been fine.

    *knock on wood
  2. fnord
    @the auther of this: Would you like to be given credit for this or remain anon?
  3. Purest
    Little Red Dinosaur and his imaginary friend were at a festival this weekend actually, there were warnings all over the literature to do with the festival about not bringing alcohol, drugs, or weapons (and pets too but we forgot to bring a goldfish) into the campsite, saying there was more security this year, and that police searches would be in effect. Due to slight paranoia they decided only to take in 2 crates of beer, a half ounce of weed, 200 charges of nitrous, and the dinosaur's car has a fair few weapons that are mostly legal to carry but not to a festival.
    There wasn't a single search done on their vehicle, literally just drove it into the camping area and that was it. Walked around with small baggies in their pockets past sniffer dogs (unintentionally!) and had no reaction from them. The Dinosaur and his imaginary friend smoked the entire half ounce in the relatively small campsite without any hassle whatsoever.
    In fact the only time any security had any problem with them was this morning when they set a camping stool alight, how they saw that but nothing else is entirely beyond the pair.
    True, the pair could have just been very lucky on the searching front, however like the article states, just don't drive into a festival with a baggie on the dash and a joint in your hand, or look paranoid. Have problems hiding paranoia about searches, wear mirrored sunglasses, takes all their power away.
  4. adzket
    swim would like to know how this works now in the uk as the human rights bill was changed a number of years ago in regards to stopand serch procedure and basicaly in there exsperiance as soon as you refuse they areest you for some breach of a by law and such. resently when swim has been venturing into the centre of london they have been asked to go threw metal detecors on the tube and be serched and there bags serched somtimes there have been drugs dogs about so swim now avoids this route of travel if possible the polices exscuse is they are tackaling nife crime. where would swim stand on his rights not to consent to a serch especialy in a public place ect.
  5. FuBai
    The UK Police have the power to stop and search you or your vehicle anytime, or at least that is my understanding of it. We have several different pieces of legislation which ammount to the police being able to search pretty much anyone any time, especially if you are on public property. You don't have the same rights that American's have in refusing a search without probable cause.
  6. Expat98
    Bonnaroo-Bound Man Busted With LSD

    MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Murfreesboro police arrested a man they believe intended to sell 1,000 tabs of LSD at Bonnaroo, which started Thursday.

    Bonnaroo is a four-day, multi-stage camping festival in Manchester, which is about 60 miles south of Nashville. It attracts more than 80,000 and features a diverse lineup of artists.

    "It's Schedule 1, which means it has no medical use whatsoever," said Kyle Evans, Murfreesboro police spokesman. "It's purely evil and a bad drug."

    Roy Wilbur of Coffee County was arrested after police found enough of the powerful and dangerous hallucinogen for more than 600 people.

    "This is a significant amount of LS," Evans said, adding that the amount isn't something his department sees every day.

    "When you buy LSD you buy it in what's called a bible and there's a 1,000 hits in a bible. In this case, we found 637," he said.

    Wilbur didn't tell police where the rest of the LSD is.

    "I'm not going to say he was under the influence, but he was acting strange to officers," Evans said.

    Police suspect he was headed to Bonnaroo.

    "You put two and two together and it's definitely possible that he was planning on selling those at Bonnaroo," he said.

    Police said while some people go to Bonnaroo for fun, others such as Wilbur give the festival a bad name.

    Wilbur faces a felony charge for possessing the drugs. He remains in jail.
  7. fnord
    The kids now adays have no respect for the police....
  8. nigonks
    SWIM went to Summer Camp this year and a friend of a friend was busted for selling seven hits of LSD to an under cover cop. SWIM also encountered what he believed to be an undercover cop when walking past the cop station was asked by a middle aged man for "drugs. Hard ones." SWIM suggests that you do NOT do business with people who are alone - a company of friends often signifies a legit fellow. SWIM has always found that doing business with someone SWIM can link to - whether a friend did business with this person or a friend of a friend of a friend knows who prospective business person is - is the best way for SWIM to go. SWIM says to be wary of the way a seller/buyer approaches SWIY. Once SWIM's friends were approached by a man in their campsite asking if they'd like to trip on mushrooms in a cliche way and held up a baggie of fungus. Once they denied him he walked away, showing the badge on the back of his head.
  9. Panthers007
    A friend of Bongo's was coerced, by an old "friend" of his, to sell his "new friends" some LSD25. This was 1976. But little has changed. And what has changed has been for the worse.

    After procuring 1,000 hits of LSD, they wanted 5,000 hits. Then 20,000 hits. Then out came the badges and .357's. "Breathe and you're dead, freak!"

    His attorney argued he was coerced and was actively trying to get out of "the life." He was. He argued that this was coerced from Mr. M*******. So the judge took pity on the idiot (he should have thrown his friend in front of an oncoming bus). And sentenced him to 1 year in a state mental-institution. Where he was raped up his asshole and beaten daily by the staff. For a year. After his year-long torture by these good, God-Fearing Americans - he was ordered to live for another year in a house across the street from his former (Ha!) torture-chamber.

    Finally he was allowed to go home to his town - Cambridge, Massachusetts. Immediately the police were trying to set him up. Bongo and a reporter went to the police and explained what had happened. And offered to expose the local police for being in collusion with people who torture and rape people for a living. The local police apologized and backed off.

    If you find something like this going on - bring it out in the open. If your local press (media) runs away and hides, don't hate the media. BECOME the media.
  10. fnord
    @bongo: Cambridge police are not the nicest people in the world,grandma was mouthing off to a fellow that was trying to abuse his power one day and was threatend with a good anal probing with a billy club! Not exactly grandmas idea of a public service.. I wish ¨normal¨ people could see just how the police act/treat others. there seems to be a common idea that if the police are mistreating a person tyhen that person is inherently evil or bad and deserves the treatment they get.

    Some more info on roadblocks in the us:
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