How can I get arrested at Coachella?


I would like to smoke some weed at Coachella, Okay?

> Probably not.

For some festival revelers, it just isn't Coachella without a trusty vape or maybe a joint - or three - of the oldest weed in the book. Before you bring that sack or cartridge in through the gates however, some things you should know: Even though under California law it is now legal for people 21 years and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, Coacahella Festival rules forbid you from bringing marijuana on to the festival grounds. And no, it does not matter if you have your medical marijuana card or physician recommendation, no marijuana on festival grounds.  Coachella security or even undercover law enforcement can confiscate it and eject you from the festival. 


I would like to take some other drugs at Coachella, okay?

> Maybe... and seriously, no.

Cocaine, heroin, ecstasy/GHB, methamphetamine and shrooms are all illegal in California under any circumstances under H&S 11350 or 11377. Possession of narcotics and/or stimulants like Ritlain, Adderall, Oxycontin and Vicodin is illegal in California without a prescription from a licensed physician (H&S 11350 or 11377). For prescription drugs to be okay, the drug in question must be in a clearly labeled pharmacy bottle with the patient's name and be in the patient's possession. (California Business and Professions Code 4060). Also, before you take your whole stash, be warned, quantity is an issue. A prescription bottle with your name on it holding 120 pills will still be suspicious. You are only at the festival for 3 days at a time and the standard is to have a "reasonable" amount... so be reasonable.

Violation of drug laws is considered a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail, though it can be filed as a felony if you have prior convictions of certain violent or serious felonies or if you were required to register as a sex offender under Penal Code Section 290. In years past, Coachella has offered a "dump bucket" at the festival gates for your drugs. The intended purpose is for attendees to deposit illegal drugs in a secure repository with no fear of arrest or prosecution. Of course, nobody actually does this. It exists so that the police and district attorney can later say that you had a chance to legally dispose of your drugs, but instead you elected to continue to break the law.


I would like to share some other drugs at Coachella,
that's probably not okay either right?

> Right. 

Sharing or selling other drugs with new friends can get ugly for you too. It is punishable as sales under Health and Safety Code 11378 and the penalty is a felony conviction and up to 3 years in custody. The criterion for sales is similar to weed, but with a caveat - the quantities that can get you in trouble can be even smaller. As few as 15 pills of molly/GHB/ecstasy - enough to share with a few friends - can be punishable as transportation under Health and Safety Code 11379. The penalty here is also a felony conviction with up to 3 years in custody. If they find it in your car, you could be punished for both transportation and possession for sale.


I am SO wasted at Coachella RIGHT NOW, dude. Is that okay?

> It depends.

Let the good times roll my friend, just don't get in the way or hurt anybody, including yourself. Under California Penal Code 647(f), if you are so intoxicated on alcohol that you are unable to care of yourself or are a danger to yourself or to the safety of others, you can certainly be arrested. Also, if you interfere with others accessing a "public way" such as a crosswalk, street, a sidewalk, public entrance, etc that could also get you cuffed. The maximum punishment is up to six months in county jail or a fine of up to $1,000. Additionally, if the reason you are rolling is something other than alcohol, that can definitely spell trouble. Under California Health and Safety Code 11550, it is a misdemeanor to be under the influence of drugs or narcotics in a public place. This means if the police suspect you are under the influence of cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, Ecstasy/GHB/Molly, PCP, etc. you can be arrested. Punishments for this can be up to 5 years on probation, up to one year in county jail, or drug counseling. First offenses are not subject to the maximum punishment, but this is a "priorable" offense, meaning the punishments get more severe with each subsequent conviction.

Finally, if you are a minor, all deals are off. Under Business and Professions code 25662, it is a misdemeanor for a minor to be under the influence. There is no possibility of jail and it is only punishable by a fine or community service. The bigger deal with a conviction here however is that it leads to a mandatory one-year suspension of a minor's California driver's license (Vehicle Code 13202.5). For most teenagers, that is a far worse fate. And a conviction will become part of a person’s permanent criminal record, which is why it is critical to fight this charge and get it reduced to an "open container" infraction if you can. A good lawyer can help you with that.


I would like to have some sexy times at Coachella, okay?

> Maybe.

What could be sexier than searing heat and crowds of sweaty people who have not showered for several days? If you enthusiastically embrace this statement, you are probably looking to Coachella as a fine time to make time with some hot young thing. But be careful, make sure they are not too young, and that consent is the word of the day. Having sex in public is a misdemeanor under Penal Code Section 647(a). Risqué and playful as it may seem at the time, getting caught by the authorities is nothing but a big hassle. You may very well get arrested, and you might have to go to sex offender counseling. Play it safe: get a room - or a tent or a yurt - or keep the action PG.

Also, just because the vibe at Coachella is anything goes, doesn't mean you don't have to ask first. Like anywhere else, you still need to get consent first from any sexual partner. But it also bears mentioning; do not hook up with someone who is too inebriated to provide consent. In California, the law presumes that someone who is intoxicated is incapable of consent. You could be charged with a felony, sentenced up to 8 years in prison, and required to register as a sex offender. If the victim is a minor, the minimum sentence is 7 years in state prison with a maximum sentence of 13 years and sex offender registration. Not very sexy at all. Once you are sure you have consent, you might want to ask for some I.D. too. The object of your affection must actually be 18 years of age or over.

Simply believing that a person is of age - even if they look the part - is not a legal defense to rape or statutory rape. And the penalties could be steep. If the defendant is at least 21 years old and the minor is under 16, you could face up to 4 years in a California state prison. So card them or zip it.


I would like to get naked at Coachella. Is that okay?

> It depends.

The heat, the tunes and the positive energy got you yearning to go au naturel? Do so at your own risk. In general, not all nudity can get you arrested, but if the police believe that you exposed yourself for the purpose of "sexual gratification or to offend others" then you could be charged with indecent exposure under California Penal Code Section 314. And while this is only a misdemeanor, it carries a mandatory lifetime registration as a sex offender - something that could seriously harm your reputation, employment prospects and personal life.


That guy over there is throwing me shade.
I would like to kick his ass at Coachella, okay?

> You better chill, brah.

No doubt that there are some seriously annoying people at Coachella. With the crowds, heat and general shuffling for space, people can get grumpy fast. But before you lash out a newfound foe, consider this. Under Penal Code 242/243, simple battery is any unlawful touching of another's person - even hitting or slapping someone where no injury results, for example. While this is considered a misdemeanor, it still carries with it a maximum punishment of up to six months in jail and a $2000 fine. And if they do sustain "serious bodily injury"? Under Penal Code 243(d), this could stay a misdemeanor or be elevated to a felony and a strike under California's three strikes law. How it gets filed depends on the severity of the injury and the facts of the case. If you are lucky enough to get a misdemeanor, you are still potentially looking at one year in county jail. With a felony, it could be up to four years in local custody or a California state prison. Finally, there is a third possible finding - assault with means likely to cause great bodily injury under Penal Code Section 245(a)(4) that can get you in trouble if you assault someone in a manner where the risk of great bodily injury is likely - whether or not it actually occurred. This is also punishable as misdemeanor with up to one year in county jail or, if a felony, up to four years in state prison and up to a $10,000 fine. No matter what, seems like a big price to pay for just a little shade.


I forgot my sunglasses/sun hat/sunscreen/yoga mat/prayer beads/headphones/quinoa. i am going to borrow someone else's without asking, okay?

> We don't touch other people's things.

Taking - even just "checking 'em out dude" - someone's stuff without asking is obviously not okay in the general sense, but something about the peace, love and happiness vibe at Coachella may get people confused. So let's be clear: the taking of personal property at Coachella is no different than doing it in a store, school, home or office. It can absolutely get you arrested. Theft is classified in two ways under California law and both are related to the value of the object stolen. Petty theft is charged when the value of the items stolen are less than $950 and - unless you are going after some seriously deluxe headphones or someone's carefully distress designer duds - probably what you would find most often at Coachella. There are two statutes under which petty theft is charged in California - Penal Code Section 484 (petty theft) and Penal Code Section 459.5 (shoplifting) - and both are misdemeanors. First time petty theft and shoplifting offenses carry a maximum sentence of six months in the county jail, three years summary probation, and a $1,000 fine. If the property you stole is valued at over $950, it could be classified as grand theft. If charged as and convicted of a grand theft misdemeanor, punishment is up to one year in county jail. If for a felony, it is up to 3 years in custody. What if you throw all that peace, love and happiness out the window use force or fear to take that kid’s pumped up kicks right off his feet? Under Penal Code 211, this is robbery, and it is a felony. A charge of robbery is punishable by up to six years in state prison and can be more if you used a weapon. So yeah, probably best to keep your hands to yourself on this front too.


I lost my designated driver at Coachella - somewhere between The Gaslight Killer Experience and Gessaffelstein. Okay if I drive back to my motel slowly and with one eye closed?

> Of course not.

While an entire website could be devoted to the number of ways taking the wheel with substances in your bloodstream could get you in a world of trouble - not to mention dead or killing someone else - let's just take a look at some common charges that can make your time at Coachella particularly memorable. Most people know that the magic blood alcohol number under Vehicle Code 23152(b) is .08% in California. Anything greater and you are considered Driving Under the Influence (DUI). What a lot people do not know is that if you drive after you have been drinking, under Vehicle Code 23152(a), you can be charged with a DUI regardless of your blood alcohol content. If the police and prosecutor merely believe you were unable to operate a motor vehicle safely due to impairment, you could be in trouble. If you are arrested for DUI and refuse to submit to a breath or blood test, the California DMV can suspend your license for one year with no eligibility for a restricted license. Even if you do submit to a breath or blood test, clocking in at higher than .08% can result in license suspension, possible jail time, possible installation of an Ignition Interlock Device on your vehicle, fines, fees and/or probation. Couple that with the almost guaranteed presence of random police checkpoints throughout the Coachella Valley over the course of these weekends and the possibility of bodily injury to yourself or others, finding that designated driver of yours is definitely the safest bet. Did you try the vegan stand with the awesome tempeh burgers? He's probably still there.


I would like to ask this beautiful stranger with the playful headdress to do some or all of the above with me. If I ask first, he/she has to tell me if they are a cop, right?

> Only in the movies.

There are undercover police officers all over Coachella. They may come up to you and ask to buy drugs from you. They may even offer to sell you drugs. And while every crime thriller you have seen since you were a kid has told you differently, undercover officers are under no obligation to tell you what they are, even if you ask them nicely.