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Play Legally on the Playa: 5 Legal Issues at Burning Man

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

This year, about 68,000 (yes, thousand) people are expected to trek into the Black Rock Desert in Nevada for Burning Man. Veteran and virgin Burners alike should remember that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will enforce local and state laws during the event, which runs through Labor Day.

Though revelers will be there to watch The Man burn, here are five legal issues to consider on the dust-filled Playa:

  1. Watch out for ticket scams. If at the last minute you've been inspired to head to the Playa, beware ticket scams. The Secure Ticket Exchange Program is over, so be wary of third party purchases.
  2. Keep in mind The Law will be there. For the first time, there is a law enforcement command post in Black Rock City stationed near the event's Black Rock Ranger's station, according to the Nevada State Personnel Watch. There will only be roughly one officer for every 1,000 participants... Still, there were about 350 arrests and citations during last year's event, so beware Big Brother's gaze.
  3. Light your Mutant Vehicle. Burning Man is famous for its elaborate Mutant Vehicles -- moving art that doubles as an effective mode of transportation during the event. But remember, under BLM regulations, motorized vehicles -- like art cars, motor scooters and go-peds -- must have front and rear lights, and drivers must have their driver's license on them when operating any vehicle.
  4. Don't gift yourself someone else's bike. Bike thievery is a burning issue every year at Burning Man. Everything's covered in dust, there's an infectious communal spirit of generosity and gift-giving, and some of the bikes look so dang cool that people can't resist the urge to take them for a spin. With virtually no cell phone reception in the area, it's easy to lose track of rightful owners. Nevertheless, if you accidentally wind up with someone else's property, turn it in to the BM staff. Theft is still illegal -- even in Black Rock City.
  5. Don't poop on the playa. By all means, sit on a giant seesaw and revel in the madness of Bassnectar and the Lucent Dossier from atop a geodesic dome -- but don't defecate on the Playa. Doing so is a violation of federal regulations that can cost you $125 or more. Plus it's nasty.

For more tips, check out Burning Man's Survival Guide.

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