Burning Man is a Police State | 13 Must Follow Rules:

Mota Bota |
Burning Man rainbow
Burning Man rainbow.  photo:  picturepost.wordpress.com

***Article was originally written in 2013***

What you must know is that Burning Man is a VERY SOPHISTICATED POLICE STATE, EXTENSIVELY PATROLLED and MONITORED by State and Federal Officers. They literally motor by your camp every twenty minutes looking for someone, ‘anyone’, to bust. Not to mention Camp Spies in costume and Special Operations sporting night vision goggles and underage shills. And their interest is simple – they’re dying to give you a citation. They could care less about what you’re doing, what they’re keen about is the ‘enormous’ amount of money generated by these citations, more citations = more money for State and Federal coffers. If you go, check out their equipment, it will all be brand new and state of the art. And who do you think pays for all of that personnel and equipment?  Ding! Ding! Ding! You guessed it, the ‘Burners’.

Federal Law always trumps State Law. Since the federal police are at Burning Man, you’ll still get busted for pot:  State vs. Federal Law: Who Really Holds the Trump Card?

Cops lined up at Burning Man.
Cops lined up at Burning Man.

Now how does ol’ Mota Bota know about this?  Well, my first Burn was in 1992, and there were both State and Federal officers around, but they were kinda like us, enjoying the festivities and looking out for our safety, not our wallets – what a concept!

Burning Man sculpture
Burning Man sculpture

Now fast forward to my last Burn in 2009.  In my camp alone a gentleman was busted for marijuana while driving within the Burning Man compound (the most dangerous place to drive). He had a faulty taillight on his trailer and a pot tin on his dash. The officers could’ve cared less about the taillight, but eagerly sighted him for the pot. That citation was $675., to be paid within 45 days, and if not, a warrant would be issued, the infraction amount increased, and the citation would be part of his permanent record. My lovely neighbors across the street, a young working couple of 40 with toddlers at home, offered (like scads of others) a free bar. They were visited by an underage shill from Special Operations and busted. That citation was $1,500, to be paid in full within 45 days, with the same scenario as above.

Burning Man. photo: oliver fluck
Burning Man. photo: oliver fluck

This was just in my camp and the neighbors across the road! They (Law Enforcement) are solely interested in the money, and can you blame them? Let’s assume this year they bust a modest 500 people, with an average fine of $1,000. –  folks that’s half a million dollars! – ‘if’ the fines are paid on time, if not, that number escalates substantially.

Burning the Man. photo: ap
Burning the Man. photo: ap

So What Do You Do? 

1.  Make sure your vehicle is currently registered and all the lights are working properly.

2.  Never ‘ever’ go over the speed limit ‘anywhere’ (especially inside the BM compound).

3.  Don’t ‘at any time’ ride on top or outside of your car, and wear your seatbelt at all times accordingly.  The art cars will be excepted once they’re sanctioned.

4.  No open alcohol containers in your vehicle at any time, period.

5.  Never smoke pot in a public place – the world’s easiest bust via odor.

Relaxing at Burning Man.

6.  Never smoke pot in your car – even when parked, keep it in the tent.

 7.  If you’re going to do a free bar, ‘check IDs’ if you’re the ‘least’ bit suspicious of an underage drinker.

 8.  Know your rights, they still need probable cause to search your vehicle.

 9.  Never offer drugs to strangers – especially those two cute chicks, they’re narcs!

 10.  Keep any drugs concealed en route to BM – party when you get there.

Burning Man. photo: dailymail.co.uk
Burning Man. photo: dailymail.co.uk

11.  Use common sense and trust your gut, if someone seems cool, they probably are;  if they seem flaky, they probably are.  The neighbors you camp with will be the most trustworthy.


 13.  And lastly, go to ‘jackrabbitspeaks’ – this is the official e-mail site of Burning Man – and type ‘law enforcement’ in the subject column.  You can also check out ‘citations’ and ‘arrests’.  Read what Will Chase and the Burners have to say about law enforcement because I’m sure I’ve missed a few things.

You’re never alone at Burning Man

Burning Man is a cathartic experience like no other.  The people, the art, the machines, the music, the fire, the sharing, the shelters, the theme camps, and the costumes; all make for an unforgettable experience, just be smart and make it a great experience.

– Mota Bota 

PS: Mota will be at ‘Symbiosis’ this year.

Burning Man...
Burning Man…  photo:  stuckincustoms.com

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58 thoughts on “Burning Man is a Police State | 13 Must Follow Rules:

  1. Like all this kind of thing, it’s good for a decade or so, then it gets too popular and douchey, then it attracts the desperate to be oh so groovy and hip, you know those insecure types. Went to, 90,91,92, was fun but reasonable, now it’s 80 thousand and full of silicone valley hipsters, yawn.

  2. Aaaahhhh, burning man. The home for frat douchebags, sorority bitches, long burned out losers, and fake art. I love festivals and ganja, but what a bunch or pretenders.

  3. Honestly, while burning man is a ‘diversion’ to try at least once… I’ve never seen so many pretentious douchebags in one area in my life and stopped going years ago. Every year the same lame top hats, the same desperate effort into trying to look ‘down’ and dressing like something they saw in a shitty apocalyptic movie, the same forced ‘peace’ vibe or ‘healing’ vibe based on some abstraction coming out of the mouths of factual imbeciles, etc. ad nauseam. I truly wished it did have a satanic theme, then it would be mildly interesting again and I’d be all in for the whack experience (except for choking on dust). Your money is better spent traveling abroad to party destinations.
    As for the police – that just means you have the government scared and that’s a good thing, keep it up.

  4. Well, the numbers in this article are way off. Cops busted 58 people this year, not 500. Most of the busts were related to drugs, but cops also busted a felon with a firearm, one assault with a deadly weapon and a sex assault – which is what they should be focusing on.

    I don’t think cops presence this year was very visible. They did set a record with the number of busts, which means they have changed their tactics. Don’t forget that the number of BM participants was over 70,000, which is probably about twice than the 2009 when was the last year writer attended. From what i heard talking to several BRC rangers. most of the cops are ok and large number of people are getting busted for really obvious shit like driving or riding bike with a joint in their teeth.

  5. “lovely neighbors across the street, a young working couple of 40 with toddlers at home, offered (like scads of others) a free bar. They were visited by an under age shill from Special Operations and busted.”
    Yeah…. loosers who bring their fkn toddlers to a drug fueled party.. Thanks you law enforcement! Hopefully CPS was notified.

  6. About 9 years ago I talked to an agent who said that they go into BM with the assumption that everyone in attendance is using or has intent to do so. Thus, one should never think that BM is going to become more permissive relative to substance use. Putting aside for the moment any debates about the integrity of BM and/or stereotypes of festival goers, practically speaking it’s not in anyone’s best interest to attend if you think you cannot have a good time without using something. Stay home and/or throw a party someplace that allows for more freedom. On the other hand if you can’t put it down for a week (or moderate use) then you might be better off going to rehab rather than BM.

  7. I have never heard of something so idiotic in my life as this festival. No surprise that it takes place out West. This country is truly full of losers.

  8. Hilarious, they set up this thing to attract likely targets then makes busts all over the place. Clever.

  9. B M is a unique experience indeed but buying drugs from strangers is no different than any other festival. More times than not you get bunk (sometimes extremely dangerous ingredients) or “click” “click” Damn, she didn’t look like a cop. Use common sense !

  10. If you read the website it clearly states that children are welcome at BM. Anyone who reads that and thinks the powers that be won’t be looking out for drugs, booze and other stuff aren’t paying attention. Anyway, if you want to be stoned it’s cheaper and safer to just do it at home.

  11. I heard on the radio just the other day that there is a new sheriff in town and that he is going to be very strict…

  12. i wouldn’t fucking go there for all the money in the world . There is an infestation right now of bugs that is amazing to look at in the photos but in person a bit much i would think

  13. Geez, what’s with the anti-drugs sentiment 🙁 I thought Burning Man was all about acceptance, freedom, personal exploration, respect, openness, and welcoming everyone. Well, apparrently, everyone except pot-smokers, XTC-users and LSD-trippers, that is.

    Most dangerous place to do drugs? Keeping pot inside your tent? Really? 🙁

    I wonder when people start realizing that alcohol is so much worse a drag than pot, MDMA, mushrooms or LSD.

  14. It’s like every movement, this originally an art movement: pure to it’s intentions for a very brief time, led by true innovators, and supported by early adopters. Almost within seconds you have the proliferation to imitators and then it’s already over.
    see: early be-ins and love-ins.

  15. I thought this blog site was about everything snow?

    Will there be snow sports on the playa this year?


    1. Snow is the focus, but we love articles not about snow. But Burning Man has a solid snow connection since it’s so close to Tahoe. You wouldn’t believe how weird Tahoe gets right before and after Burning Man. They all come through Tahoe. thanks.

  16. Better yet…. Don’t attend BM!

    It is the worlds largest gathering of douche bags on the planet! Why the hell would u want to congregate with 70k narcissistic, un-original, self righteous lemming who equally think they are more unique and interesting than the next?

    Don’t even get me started on these ridiculous post-event “decompression” parties… yawn.

    1. Better yet, go to your house!
      Its the worlds smallest gathering of insecure, self righteous cunts on the planet!

      Dont even get me started on your “small penis” yawn

    2. I think the correct adjective you were trying convey was “hedonistic” not “narcissistic”, there is a difference.

      def. hedonistic–engaged in the pursuit of pleasure; sensually self-indulgent.
      “a hedonistic existence of drink, drugs, and parties”

      def. narcissistic personality disorder–Narcissistic personality disorder is a condition in which people have an excessive sense of self-importance, an extreme preoccupation with themselves, and lack of empathy for others.

      As you may not be able to understand the difference, there are tens of thousands of people that attend the burn who are absolutely caring about people and have much empathy for others.

      I believe perhaps you are a tad passive aggressive, (another type of personality disorder, that can btw, be positively affected by therapy), and possibly narcissistic yourself, thus the negative comments expressed in your post.

      Have a most spectacular and fantastic day.

  17. I’ll be watching you, all of you, and will have my radio ready to transmit all the illegal debauchery you all call modern art to the proper authorities. You will respect my AUTHORI-TIE!!!!!!!!

  18. How many times must this be explained. The expression is COULDN’T care less. If you bother to stop and think, you’ll realize that COULD care less, at best, makes no sense–and at worst, says more or less the opposite of what it’s meant to say. You might realize a few other things, too–like the little fact that all this article is saying is you can get busted for breaking the law at Burning Man, just as you can for breaking it in a million other places.

  19. This guy is exaggerating a bit. Yes you can get busted but if you follow the 13 things listed above the chance is
    near zero. Don’t do stuff you know is considered “illegal” (eg marijuana,sex, pissing on ground etc), out in the open.

    A guy across the street was busted for pot by police on speeding golf cards. then an hour later neighbors
    next to me invited us over to where they were doing joints in a private space hidden between busses & tents.

    I got pulled over after greeters for doing 7 mph in a 5 mph zone on radar. I got talking to him about working
    for the same federal govt as him. This surprised him greatly and he let me go with just a verbal warning.

  20. About the Po-Po at Burningman: Please share far and wide!

    I think it is important to welcome any cops you see. Personally I always say “HELLO OFFICER! HEY EVERYBODY COME SAY HI TO THE NICE POLICEMAN!” I use my loudest, happiest voice.

    I also like to help them be seen so they can help anybody that needs help. Whenever I see them cruising though a camp or even just a big party in the deep playa I encourage everyone to shine their flashlights on them so that, again, if anyone needs their help they will be easy to find. This tends to work best with a headlamp. Don’t shine in their eyes as that would be rude. Just shine on their lower body and legs. Spread the word and let’s help them be seen.

    Another thing I do to help any undercover cops is if anyone asks me for drugs I yell out as loud as I can “HEY EVERYBODY! THIS GUY/GIRL IS LOOKING FOR DRUGS!!! DOES ANYONE KNOW WHERE TO GET SOME???” Please everyone join me in helping them.

    If you have a mutant vehicle, please get one of those million candle power flashlights that plugs into a cigarette lighter. That way we can illuminate them when they are camped out with their lights off. That way no one will accidentally crash into them.

    If we all work together we can really make a difference!

    1. @Timbshoo

      lol I like your style. However, what if it’s not an undercover, but some genuinely needy person looking for a little bud or something because they couldn’t bring their own, and you just blew up their spot big time by yelling and advertising to the real narcs and undercovers that this person is “in the market” for something, so to speak.

      I guess maybe you can tell the difference, to a degree. I just don’t always 100% trust my own judgment when it comes to that stuff– I tend to be a little on the paranoid / distrustful side when it comes to drugs and cops.

    2. I want to see the expression on you face, when the drug-sniffing dog “alerts” and they haul you off in handcuffs !

  21. Burning man is one of the saddest things to happen to america… instead of using all that creativity to take back your government and lives… you basically just piss it all away on a satanic party.

    1. I’ve been to Burning Man 7 times, never seen a satanic party. Which camp will be holding it this year?

      1. I’ve never seen CO2, but I know it’s all around me.

        For the first clue that you’re in a Satanic party, look at the giant statue which will be ritually and ceremonially burned in the darkness on Saturday night.

        For the next clue, look at the 9 mile long pentagon you’re inside. Draw a pentagram within that, and see how perfectly the layout of the city conforms to its lines, with their .666% of a circle.

        You might also look into the history of the Druids, Pagans, and even Satanism – it’s a religion based on “Death of God” and “Self is God”, popular Burning Man themes.

    2. you’re a f’n idiot. And you’re the unbalanced one – I’m just balancing your equation a bit here. You don’t even know what Satan is. This is primordial energy – it fills your stupid soul. Satan is your friendly lawyer. The executive running the bank that just took your money. And he’s in every connected professional. This is a release from such things. New age? Hah! I’ve said enough and you have no reason to exist.

      1. Actually, that was too strong for you and I apologize to you. You are obviously a concerned person and I would like you to consider (or whoever reads this) that this is a primal connection to what exists within every atom – the entire fractal is powered from energy. And this is your connection to the universe. It doesn’t rule out God or Sacred, just transmute it a bit by throwing a harness on it and calling it a Saint’s day or Carnival. And it is certainly a vacation from the modern stresses and self-disaster including being an activist. Common by – don’t get drunk – spend time away with friends – and ponder.

    3. Hmm well life energy isn’t that simple it’s not like gasolinein your car.
      YOu dont’ necesarily “use up” creativity at burning man, but nurture, empower it, gain confidence community and inspiration and also connections with so many people. – to do what you want the rest of the year, eg the things you mention. And now regionals are spreading like wildfire, originally “powered” by bm central but now with lives of their own, and they act as energy nodes of inspiration and liberation locally.

  22. i kind of got it when it was free way back when, it just seems so absurd now, i guess people get off on it though which is all that matters. Sad to hear the surveillance/ police state apparatus put to use here, pretty disgusting what it has come to, it’s just getting started.

  23. straight up fact. Listen to Mota peeps and stay safe out there.
    better yet, go out to the playa when burning man is not happening and experience the raw beauty without 70,000 people distracting you from yourself.

    1. Exactly. IMOP Burning man is too expensive and regulated to much. The Playa is killer without all the folks. That whole area north of there is off the hooooooK!

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