Raves and the Law

You're having a great time at a rave, spun into a trance state, when you are suddenly confronted by the authorities. Are you prepared? Do you know what to do? Do you know your rights? Do you know how to deal with the situation? This little essay is a brief attempt to give you a few pointers on how to be prepared for dealing with the authorities; if not for yourself, how to watch out for your companion ravers.

Background: Raves, rave-like events, and many parties often operate under or around the legal system. Many events are held in places without the permission of the owner of the property, or may be held in public places which are officially closed during the time the party is held. Some people at events have substances on their person that may be of questionable legality. Some people at events may do things that may be illegal. Raves and similar events are first and foremost public events; which is to say that there will be people there who you don't know. Some of these people may have their own agenda, which may include mischief or observing the party for potentially illegal activities.

Before: It is almost always best to travel to, from and around raves with other people who you know and trust, and to know where your friends are. For outdoor events, if you leave the main group of people, be sure to take a friend to look out for you, and you for them. This is largely a safety concern, but it is also important to have someone else present as a witness if you are confronted by the authorities. In general, get yourself sorted before the party, and avoid possession of felony substances and items; you may be searched -- thoroughly. Be aware of what may happen if you or a friend has a bad trip -- and bring along a few toys, blankets, warm clothes and what not to help your friends. Bring a flashlight to events, in case you need to go somewhere unlit. Bring along bandaids and other first aid, in case you or a friend need them. If you see police cars on the way to or at the site, stay and watch what happens. They may leave; you may be needed as a witness. If you're told that you must leave or you will be cited, do so, unless you are prepared for the citation.

During: When you have a chance, look around you and see who and what is around the main group of ravers. You may be able to provide early warning of threatening persons or authorities. Keep a look out for folks around you who may be in trouble. Be sure to have water on hand, or look for water among friends, and be sure to drink often when you're dancing. If you do see someone threatening approaching, deal with the substances and issues you need to immediately, and stay with the main group of ravers. If you are sober, and can deal with police or the authorities, go over to them, and at least observe. Try to meet the authority as far away from the main body of people as possible...the fewer particulars they have to observe, the better. Also, this provides them opportunity to observe the entire goings-on, and you and your friends have an opportunity to talk with them and see what's on their minds. Never meet with the authorities alone...always talk with them with another sober person present. Answer their questions politely, as vaguely as possible, and as positively as possible. If they ask about illegal activities, such as drinking, drugs, whatever, assure them firmly that you know nothing about such activities, and haven't observed and such activities. If they ask you what the party is for, answer such that they know this is a one-time, special event, such as a birthday party for a friend leaving town, or an anniversary, or something like that. If they ask whose sound system or party it is, do not answer; tell them you don't know. If they want to speak with someone in charge, get a friend to go to the DJ area and talk with people, letting them know the authorities want to speak with someone. The promoters or organizers will likely return to the authorities with you, or be on their way. If no one comes forward, ask for at least one other sober person to go back with you. If the authorities tell you to stop the music, or disperse, have someone go back to the DJ area and tell the DJ to tuen off the music. If the authorities ask you to turn down the music, do so, or have the DJ do so, immediately. If you are asked to disperse, try to stall as much as possible, or ask them if you can go on for as long as possible-a couple of hours, till dawn, as long as you can work out. If they demand that you disperse, tell everyone to do that, while keeping the authorities talking with someone all the time. Keep their attention focused on you and your friends as much as possible, and keep them away from the main group. Get their names and badge numbers, if at all possible by looking closely. Be sure that information gets to the promoters/organizers. If one or more authority or officer walks through the main group, be sure that you or your friends keep an eye on them. Do not assume that anyone else will do any of these things. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

After: It is possible that you or your friends may be cited for something: a curfew violation, disturbing the peace, sound violations, and perhaps other, more serious crimes. Be aware that simple curfew violations may be misdemeanors, which carry the possibility of a criminal record. If you are cited, be sure to get the names and phone numbers of anyone else cited. You can keep in touch, use similar legal strategies, pool resources, and so forth. If equipment is confiscated (rare, but it does happen), be sure to help make a list of everything that is confiscated by the authorities. This will help whoever owns the equipment get it back, and keep the authorities honest. If someone is arrested and you see the arrest, let the arrestee know your name and number as a witness, and watch the authorities carefully; they are less likely to act improperly when closely watched. Do not however, interfere. If you are arrested, answer any questions, firmly and politely, with your desire to have a lawyer present during questioning. Don't say anything other than your name, if you can. Officers are trained to ask questions in an authoritative and experienced way. Be aware that once you have been informed of your right to silence, anything, anything you say can be used in a court of law, if not in your case, then potentially in someone else's case. Insist on your right to have a lawyer present during questioning.

Free Legal Advice: is available almost everywhere. Several places to ask include the local and State Bar Associations. You can also inquire at the nearest municipal, state or federal court. Ask the person at the information area to find out about free legal advice.

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Last Updated: December 12, 1995 -- Scott Nelson