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What happens if I'm caught with drugs at a festival?

Summertime provides the perfect weather for a weekend road trip to an outdoor concert. Some of the biggest artists in the world perform for thousands of people and having the chance to attend offers festival-goers a sense of freedom and community unmatched by other events. While these festivals can provide lifelong memories, no one wants it to provide a criminal conviction that carries lifelong consequences.

Researchers admit that putting an exact number on how many people use alcohol or drugs at festivals is unclear, but a study published in Billboard looked at how many people mentioned alcohol or drugs in social media posts at certain festivals.

  • 87 percent of posts at Summerfest referenced alcohol.
  • 42 percent of posts at Electric Daisy Carnival referenced MDMA.
  • 25 percent of posts at Bonnaroo mentioned marijuana.

Concert attendees should keep in mind that recreational drug use is still illegal in most states and alcohol use is illegal for anyone under 21. Some festivals have stricter policies than others when it comes to the use of alcohol or drugs or searching for alcohol or drugs upon arrival. How can concert attendees protect themselves when facing scrutiny from event security or police?

Many events have "implied consent" search rules

When purchasing a ticket to a festival, it may come with a disclaimer that attendees also agree to subject themselves to a search on location. This rule is called "implied consent" and has been the source of some debate in the legal community.

In the past, judges have ruled that events cannot subject attendees to wide-ranging searches, but instead should use defined, limited-use searches that serve the larger interest of everyone (i.e.: search for weapons).

Festivals use private security that may have different rules than local police

Festivals usually hire private security personnel to assist local police and to ensure the safety of thousands of attendees. However, private security companies are often allowed to operate under a different set of rules than local police that may not offer the same Constitutional protections.

Private security personnel can still conduct searches as festival rules allow, but they cannot make arrests. Instead, they may detain someone, also known as a "citizen's arrest," until police arrive or eject someone from the festival without an arrest.

By understanding the rules to attend a festival, attendees can have a better experience for themselves and others.

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