Know your rights if you’re arrested at EF.

June 26, 2019

Know your rights if you’re arrested at EF.


By Julie Springstead, attorney and OCP correspondent.

ROTHBURY – The nationally-renowned Electric Forest Festival kicks off today, June 26, as festival goers with early arrival passes flock to the venue area to set up their campsites in preparation for the massive event that continues through Sunday, June 30.

The gigantic celebration of music, art and individuality attracts approximately 50,000 people from across the nation and beyond each year. As with any large-scale event, some people may find themselves in situations involving law enforcement.

What do you need to know if you are driving to the festival and have been stopped by the police? Always be polite to the officers but know your rights. You will need to identify yourself. You do not have to be read your Miranda rights unless you are in a custodial interrogation.*

You do have the right to remain silent and not make statements to the police. You have the right to peacefully make a video of the police contact as long as you are not interfering in an investigation. If the driver is arrested, the police may search the interior of the vehicle, including all unlocked items in it – even things that belong to passengers.

Normally a passenger does not have a legitimate expectation of privacy in someone else’s car, but a recent Michigan Supreme court case found that in some circumstances a passenger may have a legitimate expectation of privacy. The police may do a pat-down search of any occupant if they have a reasonable suspicion to believe the person is armed or otherwise dangerous.

Once at the festival, the police will need to obtain a search warrant in order to search your person. In the past, officers have detained festival goers after seizing what is believed to be illegal and/or controlled substances. Once detained, attendees are usually asked to make a statement. The substance may be “field tested” to determine its identity and the attendee arrested or given a later date to appear in court after the substance has been sent to the Michigan State Police crime lab.

The Electric Forest Festival presents a unique challenge for Oceana County Prosecutor Joseph Bizon’s office. “We typically will prosecute around 25 felonies that occur during the event. Our annual average is about 130 felonies with about 19 percent of the cases generated in that four-day period. The vast majority of those charges are serious narcotic charges such as methamphetamine, ecstasy and heroin. We also have several reports every year of stolen property and some reports of assault. The unique challenge is not the volume of cases – the difficulty is in having so many cases at one time.”

It is unknown what the effect of Michigan’s  legal marijuana use, both recreational and medicinal, for users age 21 and older in Michigan will have at the festival. In online groups dedicated to the Electric Forest Festival, this is a hot topic frequently being debated.

Very few things in the law are black and white, and if you have been arrested, the best course of action is to seek the advice of an attorney.

Julie Springstead is an attorney in Hart who specializes in criminal defense.

* “Custodial detention” means an individual’s being in a place of detention because a law enforcement official has told the individual that he or she is under arrest or because the individual, under the totality of the circumstances, reasonably could believe that he or she is under a law enforcement official’s control and is not free to leave.
“Interrogation” means questioning in a criminal investigation that may elicit a self-incriminating response from an individual and includes a law enforcement official’s words or actions that the law enforcement official should know are reasonably likely to elicit a self-incriminating response from the individual.

This story is copyrighted © 2019, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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