Arrested at Bonnaroo? Here’s What To Do!

This week, in Manchester, TN, over a hundred acts will perform for an energetic audience of almost 80,000 people. Every year, Tennesseeans and music fans from all over gather to celebrate Bonnaroo’s fun, laid-back atmosphere. We get it – while relaxing and having fun, things can get out of hand! Before you know it, you’re being questioned by law enforcement, asked to perform a Standard Field Sobriety Test, and even transported to jail. Don’t worry, it can happen to anyone! Last year, Tennessee’s own Secretary of State was arrested by the Tullahoma Police Department and spent his Friday night in Coffee County Jail for Driving Under the Influence. We know what you’re thinking: with different arresting agencies and jail names being thrown around, it’s hard to keep track of who has authority at Bonnaroo, and what to do when you’ve been arrested at the festival. Best & Brock is here for you as you navigate through the legal maze of getting busted at Bonnaroo.


Arrested at Bonnaroo? Here's What To Do!First, let’s remember that preparation is the best cure! Ensure that you have your license, vehicle registration, and vehicle insurance in your car before heading to Bonnaroo this week. Further, be mindful that your tags are up to date, your headlights and tail lights function, and that your car is generally in working order. Finally, be aware of open container laws. Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-10-416 states that “No driver shall consume any alcoholic beverage or beer or possess an open container of alcoholic beverage or beer while operating a motor vehicle in this state.” An open container offense is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by fine, so make sure you and your friends leave all open alcoholic beverages behind before getting into your vehicle!


What arresting agency will be conducting arrests at Bonnaroo?

Although Bonnaroo takes place in Manchester, the Manchester Police Department is not the only law enforcement agency who will be holding the fort down at Bonnaroo this year. Manchester Police Chief, Bill Sipe, told the Manchester Times that his agency would be collaborating with county, state, and federal agencies to manage the festival. Coffee County Jail has even been embellished with temporary additions in anticipation of an influx of arrestees from Bonnaroo. There may also be private security hired by Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival. Bonnaroo advises attendees to be prepared to see uniformed and plain-clothed security in the crowd during the days of the festival.


What rights do people have at Bonnaroo?

As part of their security protocol, Bonnaroo will subject all attendees to an “airport-style” search prior to entry – in other words, a full body pat-down and/or magnetometer search. While you must consent to a search of your person to be granted entry to the festival, you do not lose your Fourth Amendment right to protection against unreasonable search and seizure when you enter the festival grounds. In respect to law officers and private security empowered by government agencies to conduct arrests, your Fourth Amendment rights must be upheld at the festival (see State v. Iaccarino, 767 So. 2d 470, Florida District Court of Appeals, 2nd Dist. 2000). You have the right to film police officers in the performance of their duties as long as you do not interfere with these duties, so don’t be afraid to document your encounter with officers.


What establishes reasonable suspicion? What about probable cause?

Protection of your Fourth Amendment rights means that officers must have reasonable suspicion that a crime has been, is being, or will be committed to detain a person for the purpose of an investigation. Reasonable suspicion can be established by clues such as swerving, turning illegally, ignoring traffic signs, or other erratic driving behaviors which will empower an officer to pull your car over. When in contact with your person, an officer may establish reasonable suspicion that you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol by perception of an odor of marijuana/alcohol, slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, or other indicators. If an officer is able to articulate reasonable suspicion that you have driven under the influence of drugs or that you possess an illegal substance, they must then show probable cause to justify arresting you.


According to Tennessee’s Attorney General, “Probable cause is a “stricter” standard than reasonable suspicion and requires a “reasonable ground for belief supported by less than prima facie proof but more than mere suspicion”” (quoting from United States v. Blair, 524 F.3d at 748). Probable cause is usually established in the course of the officer’s investigation, from evidence such as a field sobriety test or a breath test. If an officer has probable cause that you’ve committed a DUI or other crime, they may place you under arrest. From this point, you will likely be transported to Coffee County Jail and will need to move through the criminal justice system. Luckily for you, Best & Brock can help guide you through that process.


What are the consequences?

The first question someone wants to ask when they are placed under arrest is “What’s gonna happen to me?” Depending on your charges, your criminal records, the circumstances of your arrest, and more, the penalties you face will differ.


Please refer to the Tennessee Government website page on DUI Offenses to determine what punishments you may face when convicted of driving under the influence. This helpful breakdown displays the differences between 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and subsequent offenders’ punishments, and also describes charges that may accompany a DUI charge, such as Vehicular Assault (defined as “Serious injury to another person by a DUI driver”).


Many people are also arrested for possession of drugs at Bonnaroo. Check out our article on Tennessee Drug Classification and Scheduling to see the full breakdown of Tennessee’s criminal drug and substance laws. TCA §39-17-403 empowers Tennessee to schedule drugs based on eight factors, including scientific evidence on the drug’s pharmacological effect, the history and current pattern of abuse, and the risk to public health. Drugs are then broken into seven schedules, with Schedule I drugs being considered the most dangerous drugs, and Schedule VII drugs being considered the least dangerous.


Most people arrested for possession of drugs at Bonnaroo will be caught with marijuana, whether in its smoking, vaping, or edible form. Schedule VI, TCA §39-17-415, targets marijuana, THC in general, and synthetic equivalents. According to TCA §39-17-417, which defines penalties for drug offenses, manufacturing, selling, delivering, or possessing “not less than one-half (½) ounce (14.175 grams) nor more than ten pounds (10 lbs.) (4535 grams) of marijuana” is a Class E Felony punishable by a fine of up to $5,000. Penalties for greater amounts of marijuana and specifications for different forms of THC (i.e., hashish) can be found detailed in the Tennessee Code Annotated. Furthermore, the Tennessee Code Annotated describes classifications and penalties for other drugs, such as methamphetamines, hallucinogens, opiates, and more.


While making sure you’re staying hydrated, wearing sunscreen, and having a good time at Bonnaroo, also make sure you’re protecting your rights. If you or a loved one are arrested at Bonnaroo for DUI, drug possession, or another offense, utilize the Tennessee Code Annotated to learn more about the categorization of the offense and potential penalties. Finally, if you are charged with a criminal offense, reach out to Best & Brock by filling out this short online form or contacting us at (423) 829-1043. We are honored to help you build a defense strategy that will protect your future.