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Chris Cox

What To Do When a Cop Stops You At an EDM Festival

With summer festival season ramping up, we are all excited to see our favorite acts play on epic stages, and to connect with old friends and meet new ones. But as the popularity of the festival scene has increased, so has the attention paid to them by law enforcement.

Being stopped by a police officer at a music festival isn't something anyone looks forward to, but these tips will help minimize the unpleasantness of any such encounter. Whether you've broken any laws or not, it's important to know your rights, and to understand what you should and should not do when speaking to police.

1. Document it!

Under nearly any circumstances it is legal to videotape encounters with police in public spaces, so long as you aren't interfering with what they are doing. So if you or a friend are stopped by police, get your phone out and start taping right away.

2. Be calm, polite, and keep your hands in sight.

Arguing, or being confrontational or aggressive with police is never a good idea. If you are calm and polite, it will make most encounters with police go much more smoothly. And above all, don't give the police any reason to suspect that you might be reaching for a weapon, so keep your hands visible to them at all times.

3. Ask "Am I free to leave?"

There are specific rules for when an officer can detain you, so it's always good to ask if you are free to leave. If they say yes, leave. If they ask to see your ID, show it to them and ask why you are being detained.

4. Never consent to search.

If an officer is asking to search you or your property, you should always state clearly "I don't give you consent to search me or my property." They may search you anyway, but if a judge later finds that they didn't have probable cause, any evidence found in said search will be thrown out - as long as you clearly stated that you did not consent to the search. If you consent to search, you are surrendering your 4th amendment right and any evidence found in the search can be used against you, even if they didn't have probable cause in the first place.

5. If you are arrested or detained: remain silent.

Once you've stated that you do not consent to any search, state that you want a lawyer and are choosing to remain silent.


This list is based on a great infographic created by Cameron Bowman, aka The Festival Lawyer. He is a former DJ, an avid festival goer, and a criminal defense attorney.

Follow him on Facebook for more great tips on staying safe and knowing your rights at music events!

Image: LA Times

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