What is It Like to Get Arrested for Drugs at Coachella?

As Coachella attendees, we've all had brushes with security, whether they're frisking us down, checking our wristbands or telling us to put out our joints. Fewer of us have experienced a full-on security detention and arrest at Coachella. But for those of you who are curious what may happen if your bag of Mollys fall out of your bra during a security check or if you accidentally sell bud to an undercover, we met up with a young modern hippie, “Derek” who spilled the details of what it's like to get arrested at Coachella.

It was 2 p.m. on a Friday in 2009. Derek hadn't even made it in to the first day of the festival yet. He had returned to his campsite from going to the restroom, entirely too stoned to notice a group of plain-cloathed men rummaging through his belongings. The men noticed him first, and quickly pretended they weren't riffling through the unattended bags. The group approached Derek and said they had a report of a man of his description selling pot.


“Well it wasn't me, maybe somebody over there,” Derek replied, pointing to an unspecified area away from his site. They told him he looked nervous, so they searched him anyway. The search produced a few grams of pot and one gram of cocaine.

The men (apparently undercover security) threw Derek down on his stomach and held him down, despite the fact he didn't try to run and didn't get aggressive. They cuffed him and then whisked him away on a golf cart. As they rode off toward Coachella Jail, they stopped to pick up a middle aged “hippie-looking-dude.”

“Hey, I know you,” Derek said. “You just tried to buy drugs from me while I was waiting by the bathroom.”

“Oh hey, yeah, I did,” the guy responded, apparently in cahoots with the rest of the undercovers. “Can you tell them I didn't sell you drugs?” Derek pleaded. The man confirmed for the other undercover officers that Derek had refused to sell him drugs when he asked, but to no avail–they were still carting him away to Coachella Jail.

Coachella Jail is an outdoor police area near Monroe and 51st. It looks like a make-shift work area with lots of tables and cops and undercover officers swarming about. And reportedly a collection of girls on drugs crying. “They'd made like 40 something arrests already today so it was pretty busy,” Derek said. According to Derek, it's hot and they give you little water. After they interrogate and process you, they ship you off with other arrestees to Indio Jail about 3.5 miles away for the dirty work.

“Indio Jail sucks; I do not recommend spending any time there,” Derek said.


There, you get the real city jail shuffle. Derek said he was led from room to room for a while, taking mug shots and whatnot (“I made sure to smile for my mugshot” he said) until they put him in a cell around 4 p.m. They gave him a wristband with his mugshot and inmate number on it. He shared a cell with a large hispanic man laying on the floor and a German kid arrested at the festival for supposedly selling ecstasy.

Derek says the large Hispanic man finally woke around 2 a.m. He proceeded to tell his fellow prisoners how he was arrested with a ball of meth on him. He didn't know what to do with the methamphetamine so he stuck it up his ass. When he was thrown in the cell without a cavity search, he didn't know what to do with it when he took it out of his ass, so he just snorted the whole thing about an hour before they arrived.

“So wait, you mean to tell me you just did a ball of meth and you slept the whole time?” Derek asked. “Well, you know, I took a few naps but I was up for part of it,” the man said. Derek speculated that was a “sign of a severe meth addiction; one where you do meth so much you can't even move.”

Finally at about 2 a.m. a fellow camper and friend rode over to the jail (reportedly “rolling balls”) and signed the paperwork that said he would be legally responsible if Derek didn't show up to his court date. After a few hours of processing, Derek was free to go at around 4 a.m.

“My phone was dead so I asked to use their phone and they wouldn't let me. So I asked for directions back to the festival,” Derek said. It took him about two and a half hours to walk and find his way back to the festival campgrounds.

He approached the security guards at the campground and pulled out his wristband that the police had cut off but given back to him and said, “Hey, look, I don't know what happened but I woke up in a field somewhere with this cut off and in my pocket,” he said. “I tried to put on my best hangover face, which is what I'm sure I looked like already.”

The guards gave him a new wristband and Derek was able to enjoy Saturday and Sunday of Coachella with his friends–pushing off the worries of his legal troubles at least until Monday.

“They were supposed to take my [inmate] wristband from me before I left but they put it on too loose so I slipped it in my pocket before I left [jail],” Derek said. “I wore that thing for the rest of the weekend.”

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