This article is targeted at young people that will attend music festivals and it educate them with the information that they need to know to assert their rights and effectively comply with orders issued by police. It is written based on research of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (LEPRA), information from similar authors as well as from the general experience of other festival goers.
This segment focuses on the general information people need to know, how to behave when approached by Police and the legal basis on which Police can conduct a search.
It has now become very routine for Drug Detection Dogs to be utilised at the entrances of almost every single major EDM event. Although in general they are authorised to be deployed to conduct searches in specific public areas including;
· Anywhere alcohol is sold including bars and outdoor events.
· An event at a public place involving concerts, dance parties and parades.
· Public transport stations including bus stops, train stations and the surrounding roads.
It is not uncommon for there to be a large police presence that also employ the use of drug detection dogs at nearby and/or major train stations, bus stations of music festivals as well as the entrance. This is pretty noticeable such as the valley of death at DEFQON or being funnelled through specific entrances at smaller events.
What most people do not know about the dogs though is that Police must take all precautions from the sniffer dog touching you during an attempted detection. A sniffer dog is an extension of a Police officer, therefore if it touches you it is the same as a Police Officer touching you without any authority. This may render a search illegal, if Police engage in an improper arrest then any evidence obtained in that process may be excluded in the Court’s discretion.
The Police have no power to detain you or forcefully stop you while a sniffer dog is attempting to detect a prohibited substance, if you are being sniffed you should walk away from the area immediately and casually.
It is not advisable to reach the entrance of an event where you may seem intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. There are two main reasons for this; the first is that a police officer may detain you if you are believed to be an intoxicated person behaving in an unsocial manner.
If this happens you will not be allowed to enter the venue and/or will be taken to a designated area where you can sober up or a responsible person can pick you up.
Secondly, they may also conduct a search on you if you are to be detained for being intoxicated. It may form the basis of reasonable suspicion necessary to detain and search you. A good example of a story around was that someone obviously off his face and sniffing on vicks, he was then approached by Police. They didn’t have the authority to search him just because of that but after they questioned him and they gave him enough suspicion it did.
WHAT ITEMS THEY CAN SEARCH
If a search is legally conducted on you, Police may search anything on you. This may include looking in your pockets, bags, car and other specific items such as your phone, wallet or cigarettes. Even if they do not find any prohibited drugs on you, they may search your;
· Phone: Police will go through your phone either if you have no lock mechanism or they can utilise a device that can bypass this. They go through your text messages for suspicious information or check your contacts to match with their database. Your messages can be used against you, especially if they suspect you of supply.
· Wallet: In some cases, it is likely that if you have a large amount of money on you then Police may ask you to provide them with a reason why you are carrying such a large amount. They may suspect you of supplying drugs in which case you may also be facing a Proceeds of Crime charge.
· Any other items: Police have made it public that they are aware of the various methods in which people hide illicit substances. They will search any item you have in your possession do not think you are safe from detection by employing a special hiding device like a fake battery, your car keys, sunscreen bottle they have seen it all and I’ve even seen media reports of them boasting about it.
BEING APPROACHED BY POLICE
TYPES OF APPROACHES BY POLICE
The level of evidence that is necessary in determining whether Police had prior authority to conduct a search will be based on whether you are being arrested, detained or free to leave.
· Consensual Stops – You may be approached by Police and asked for your identity, if you have any illegal drugs on you and if you consent to a search. This is an intimidation tactic by Police and it may not be necessary for you to comply with their orders.
· Detention – You may be temporarily detained by Police for the purposes of ascertaining you identity and/or conducting a search on you. This will usually require some level of reasonable suspicion that you have in prohibited drugs in your possession.
· Arrest – You are be charged and taken to a Police Station. They will inform that you are under arrest because of reasonable grounds to believe that you have committed a criminal offence.
If Police arrest you they must suspect on reasonable grounds that you have committed an offence.
If Police detain you, to conduct a search or gather your identity, there is a lower burden of proof being reasonable suspicion.
If Police have no reasonable suspicion, they may argue that the approach was a “consensual encounter”, in which case they do not need a justification as to why they stopped you and you are free to leave at any time. It can also be said that anything flowing on from this such a search may also be deemed consensual, if they ask for your permission. This is utilised by Police as an intimidation tactic, because not everyone knows that they are “free to leave”, know that they do not have to consent to a search or know that they do not have to answer questions.
After understanding the above information, it is important to know the procedure in dealing with direct Police approaches even if you make it past the detection dogs. These are the things you should say and do to ascertain the legal status of their approach and outline your rights and obligations. Below are a few tips from another writer and a flow chart to remind you of the procedure;
1. Always remain courteous to the Police: Attempting to argue against Police requests or directions will not assist you.
2. Ask if you are “free to leave”:
If you are approached by a Police Officer who then begins to ask you questions, the first thing you should do is work out if they are detaining you or attempting to make have you consent to the encounter.
You should always ask “Am I free to leave.” If they say yes, then walk away from the encounter.
If they say “No” then you have either been detained or arrested.
3. Ask if you are being “detained”:
You should ask them to provide reasons why you are being detained. If you wish to challenge your detention, then the officer must provide the reasonable suspicion necessary to detain you.
This will have to be based on the circumstances surrounding the encounter before you were approached, nothing you say after may provide reasons to be detained by the Police.
However do not argue with the Police if you disagree with the reasons they provide, if you are unsatisfied then you may be able to lodge a complaint afterwards.
4. If they tell you to do something, then ask if it is a request or order:
If it is a request, you do not have to say or do anything. If it is an order, Police will give a warning that it is an offence not to comply.
5. If they search your property say “I do not consent to a search”: This will make it necessary for the Police to prove in Court they had reasonable suspicion to search you.
If Police ask you if you consent to your property being searched, then the most likely scenario is that they would be conducting an illegal search if carried out without your consent. They may also make statements such as “you are acting suspicious if you do not consent to a search”. Do not give in to such tactics and have them provide reasons if they wish to search you legally.
If you are approached by Police, they may ask you to disclose your identity. It would not generally be a bad idea to do so, but if they are using it as the basis of a consensual encounter ask if “you are free to leave”.
You do not have to answer Police questions, even if they ask you to accompany them to a Police Station, question you on the spot, whether they arrest you or not. Additionally, you do not have to go to a police station or accompany them unless you are arrested.
Below is a picture taken from an article written by the Festival Lawyer, an American Author who similarly writes a guide to dealing with Police at American music festivals.
SEARCH BY POLICE
The Police can search you in these circumstances;
· You agree (consensual)
· Police have reasonable grounds to suspect that you have a prohibited drug or dangerous weapon in your possession (you are detained)
· You are under arrest
If you have followed the above procedure, you will have not consented to any search which means that Police have formed the reasonable suspicion necessary in order to detain you and conduct a search.
Reasonable Suspicion: Police officers require a degree of reasonable suspicion in order to legally search you for prohibited drugs. Reasonable suspicion is a legal term but is said to be more than less than a belief but more than a possibility . It will have some sort of factual basis and depend on a number of factors, for example;
· If a drug detection dog provides a positive indication that you may have prohibited drugs
· If you are seen handing or receiving something in a suspicious manner
· If you are handling large amounts of cash at a festival
· YOU HAVE ADMITTED TO HAVING DRUGS IN YOUR POSSESSION (this is the most common one)
Remember, merely insisting on your rights, objecting to a search or demanding the reasons for a search does not prove you have something to hide and will not amount to reasonable suspicion.
If you believe that the Police have conducted an illegal search, which lead to an improper arrest this may be grounds to have the evidence taken in the matter excluded at the discretion of the Court.
Hopefully, if you have followed the procedure you would have enforced your rights. If you are charged with a drug offence then you should seek legal advice straight away, this is true whether you can afford it or not. Almost all criminal lawyers will do a free consultation which will give you good advice on the procedures you can take as an individual. I’ve assisted several of my people in this situationand their testimony will speak for themselves;
“My recommendation to anyone that get in trouble with the law is that you go get some legal advice before making any decision prior to your first court case. One of the worst thing you can do is turning up to court without getting any legal advice if i had to reflect that with my situation I can guarantee that I would ended up with a criminal conviction after my first court case if i didn’t get any legal advice.”
“Being confronted with a criminal offence can be frightening, especially if it is your first time. Getting legal advice took a massive weight off my shoulders, and in a way set my mind at ease.”
I am not a legal practitioner. You must not rely on the information on this article as legal advice or as an alternative to legal advice. It is not guaranteed that all the legal information is correct at the date of reading. If you choose to follow it, you are doing so at your own risk. I do not condone the sale or use of illicit substances, promote or encourage it.