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Law Enforcement and Burning Man

On the Playa. While there are many reports of law enforcement on the Playa, we have not found the police presence to be overly intrusive. This is not the free for all of the 90’s, or even the liberal attitudes found in San Francisco and Portland. But staying clear of law enforcement at Burning Man is fairly easy to do following to guiding principles 1. Don’t conspicously do anything illegal. 2. Don't be a danger to yourself or others. Never offer drugs to strangers. Don't start fights or act aggressively toward others. Avoid extreme and over intoxication (alcohol seems to attract the most law enforcement attention). If in trouble or needing help with a drug or alcohol related issue, seek out a Black Rock Ranger - they will find medical or psychiatric resources without alerting law enforcement.

On the Way to the Playa. Well crap, welcome to the abusive police state people bemoan. Driving from LA or San Francisco will subject you to a police force that stretches it’s authority to the breaking point, and beyond with pretextual stops. Driving exactly the speed limit, ensuring lights are working properly, ensuring license plate is not obstructed, never crossing the center line, etc. doesn’t seem to be enough to keep everyone clear of being pulled over.

The good news is that if you are driving from the Pacific Northwest, like we are, you shouln’t have any issues. In 2017, the year where the police force most exceeded any reasonable authority, we one police car the entire drive in Nevada….a single car right before coming up to Gerlach. (On the standard PNW route, you often see little traffic the last few hours, a situation that remains shocking to us after many years driving from San Francisco).

A note on obstructed license plates. The most challenging thing may be to drive without an obstructed license plate. Putting bikes on the back of your car will almost certainly obstruct your plate. Many RV’s only have a center license plate mount, and bike hitches often obstruct it. One might think there is an easy work aroud - to simply remove the plate and mount it outside the bikes with zip ties. And then add a bike light or something to light it at night. Unfortunately this does not comply with Nevada law.

The only way to be in compliance with NV law is to have your license plate affixed to your car with a light.... and the light must be wired to be lighted whenever the headlights are on. See NRS 484.551, which reads:

Passenger vehicles, bus and trucks under 80 inches in overall width must be equipped with a white lamp mounted to illuminate the rear license plate. Must be visible from a distance of at least 50 feet to the rear of the vehicle. Wired to be lighted whenever the vehicle head lamps or auxiliary driving lamps are lighted.

As a result, unless you use a trailer kit which connects the license plate light to your headlights, the mount is not compliant with law. We haven’t heard of anyone actually being ticketed for this. But there are many reports of people being pulled over who have a bike light illuminating an improvised mount for the license plate. It sucks, but it’s what is happening.

If you happened to be pulled over on the way to Burning Man, or otherwise have any interaction with law enforcement, know your rights. We have a practical articles on the topic of law enforcement here.

Lawyers for Burners is full of good articles and is an excellent resource of the Burning Man community.

We have some more thoughts about drugs on the Playa here.