Law Enforcement at Burning Man & Surrounding Areas

Burning man is a unique annual event that draws thousands of attendees to a temporary city erected in the Black Rock desert of Northern Nevada, roughly 100 miles north of Reno. Held each year in late August, the event has become known for its experimental take on communal living, art, and self-expression. While the event is continually a success and enjoyed by growing numbers of attendees each year, its association with counterculture and general size and celebratory nature have made it an event that, like many others of its size and scope, also brings increased law enforcement.

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Photo Credit: Taken from This is Reno Website

At Joey Gilbert Law, our Reno criminal defense lawyers are familiar with Burning Man, the law enforcement agencies that police the event, and common criminal charges brought against attendees and others in, near, and around the event. In fact, we receive many calls from individuals who have been charged with crimes in connection to Burning Man.

If you plan on attending Burning Man, knowing what to expect and what is and is not illegal is important. Below, we discuss a few important aspects of Burning Man when it comes to law enforcement and potential criminal allegations.

  • Law Enforcement will uphold the law - While law enforcement officers at Burning man and the surrounding areas do not have a mission of inhibiting the self-expression of attendees, we know that they do intend to enforce all relevant local, state, and federal laws and ensure the safety of guests and local residents. Knowing these laws and what to expect in terms of enforcement are important to safely enjoying the event.
  • Controlled Substances – The possession and use of controlled substances can constitute violations of the law. If you have a prescription medication, be sure to transport and keep your medication in the pharmacy container in which it came at all times. Law enforcement can and may enforce laws regarding drug crimes, particularly possession, and may issue citations, conduct arrests, and / or evict attendees from the event. Depending on some circumstances, law enforcement may choose to make arrests for more serious felony or federal crimes, including trafficking, distribution, or intent to sell in cases where individuals are found with large quantities, or give a controlled substance to another person.
  • Marijuana – Marijuana is legal for medicinal and recreational purposes for adults 21 and over in the state of Nevada. You should take the time to learn Nevada’s marijuana laws to ensure you are in compliance anywhere you will be staying or traveling through while in Nevada. It is important to note that because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, the possession or use of cannabis in the Black Rock High Rock National Conservation Area where Burning Man takes place is a federal infraction. Having a medical marijuana card is not a viable defense.
  • Alcohol – Laws involving alcohol are always strictly enforced. This not only includes laws against driving under the influence (DUI), but also other offenses, including driving with an open container and serving alcohol to minors under the age of 21.
  • Person & Property Crimes – Offenses involving any acts of violence, including assault or domestic violence, as well as theft can result in criminal charges. While some individuals may be charged under state laws, particularly in areas surrounding Burning Man, some, including those within the National Conservation Area, can be cited, arrested, or charged for felony federal offenses. The possession or firing of weapons and firearms is also prohibited at the event.
  • Other Prohibited Acts – The dumping, spilling, or leaking of oil, fuel, and black or gray water is illegal. Urination or defecation on the playa is also a violation of federal law, and may result in a costly ticket and hundreds of dollars in fines. The use of drones or similar unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) is prohibited unless operators are registered with the Remote Control BRC program and operating in compliance with federal regulations. Hiking in the closure order is discouraged, and anyone on foot in the area should be prepared to show ticket stubs or risk citations. Visiting hot springs in the area is also prohibited.

Burning Man is all about fun and enjoyment, but that can quickly change with citations, arrests, and criminal charges. If you or someone you love finds yourself facing criminal allegations in connection to Burning Man or in any of the surrounding areas – either as a Nevada resident or a tourist – you can find the support and experienced legal representation you need at Joey Gilbert Law. Our award-winning Reno criminal defense lawyers have experience handling cases arising from special Nevada events like Burning Man, and are available 24/7 to help you learn more about the charges and penalties you face, and how we can help. Contact us to request a FREE consultation.

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