This year marked the debut of the Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival, featuring performances from Bassnectar, Skrillex, The Avett Brothers, Kendrick Lamar, Odesza, Robert Plant & the Sensational Space Shifters, Mumford & Sons, Future and more. For the vast majority of the 30,000 in attendance, the festival was deemed a smashing success. Some, however, were not so lucky, as roughly 70 attendees were arrested for a number of reasons throughout the festivities.
In an interesting turn of events, it seems many of those cases will be dismissed from the courts. Prosecutor Ashley Albright recently revealed that 40 of the arrests were made without probable cause, as they were conducted by random vehicle searches.
“The cases I cannot prosecute are all administrative-type searches done at the entry point by law enforcement at the request of event organizers. That resulted in seizing a large amount of drugs that already kept them from being used or sold,” said Albright. “But, because the searches were done as administrative searches, they cannot be prosecuted.”
Albright clarified further. “All of the arrests inside the park I can still prosecute. All of those are still perfectly fine… It’s just the random searches that can’t be prosecuted. Those 40 cases are just the random stops of someone entering the gate.”
Sheriff Paul May respected Albright’s opinion, but still stands by the procedures used to keep the festival safer.
“As the sheriff of Okeechobee County, my job and number one priority is to keep illegal and highly dangerous drugs out of Okeechobee County. My office has worked very hard for the last 11 years to accomplish this,” he said. “Ashley Albright met with me yesterday (Wednesday) and explained to me why he was not going to prosecute some of these cases we made at the music festival. Mr. Albright has worked very closely with us in the past and is a very good prosecutor.”
May continued, “We will never know what might have happened and who might have suffered if we had not taken the action we did. If I have to sit down with a family and discuss the death or rape of a loved one, I have to do this knowing we have done everything we could to keep this from happening.”
The Sheriff also listed a number of substances that were confiscated at the festival. Those included cocaine, methamphetamine, LSD, ecstasy, mollies, THC wax, marijuana chewing gum, a large amount of marijuana, xanax, ketamine, mushrooms and substances that are still being tested to determine what they are.
The issue of controlled substances at music festival continues to loom large. Legislation called The RAVE Act allows concert promoters to be prosecuted for crimes committed during festivals, essentially forcing stricter security measures and potentially unsafe zero-tolerance policies. Some argue that those who do take drugs and have a bad or harmful experience may not seek the help they need, due to the threat of legal action. However, more moderate policies would lead to legal action against festival organizers. It’s a murky issue at best, with no clear resolution. For more on this issue, be sure to read our feature, “The War Between Drugs, Safety, And The Law At Music Festivals.”
Most importantly, just be smart and safe when attending a festival. It’s all about the music, anyway.
[All information via Okeechobee News]