Chatty Officer May Actually be performing a Consensual Encounter

Meeting a chatty police officer could mean nothing more than they are approachable or talkative; however Utah residents are warned to use caution as a presumably friendly conversation with police could actually be consensual encounter.

Local festivities

Photo by: Johnny Silvercloud

Communities around Utah are joining together for a slew of holiday festivities tomorrow that guarantee to bring in larger crowds than normal. These large crowds necessitate cities to increase the amount of law enforcement on duty. As everyone- both young and old, rich or poor, normal citizen or officer, come together to celebrate a commonality, it is not unusual for Utah residents to strike up conversations with one another. Unfortunately, as law enforcement on duty continues to perform their job while spending time in the community, they will often use simple conversations as consensual encounters.

Consensual encounter

A consensual encounter is a tactic used by law enforcement to obtain information from a person without having reasonable suspicion to do so. If an officer wants to investigate a person but has not identified a viable reason to do so yet, they may do nothing more than visit with the person for a short while.

Consensual Encounter

Photo by: D_M_D

A consensual encounter does not violate a citizen’s Fourth Amendment rights as it is nothing more than an encounter that ends in a conversation and at no time is the person detained or otherwise unable to leave. It is considered a consensual encounter as long as the officer kept their questioning short and simple and refrained from:

• Drawing their weapon;
• Placing someone in handcuffs;
• Turning on police lights or sirens;
• Physically detaining a person;
• Blocking someone with a patrol vehicle; or
• Speaking with force or intimidation.

Terry stop vs arrest

Photo by: David Poe

If any of the above points end up taking place during a consensual encounter, it then becomes either an investigatory stop or an arrest. An investigatory stop, otherwise known as a Terry stop takes place if a person is detained briefly by law enforcement. In order to perform a Terry stop officers must have a reasonable suspicion that the person has been or is currently involved in criminal activity. This can include instances such as if illegal contraband is in plain view or if police have a hunch the person is armed and dangerous and wish to do a brief pat-down. Terry stop often consist of traffic stops and are to be no longer than 20 minutes. If the officer either has a warrant or develops probable cause during a Terry stop, then an arrest is made. An arrest is a more formal detainment such as being handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol vehicle and this act should always be preceded by the Miranda Warning.

Questionable stops

All residents are advised to be aware about the possibility of increased consensual encounters during the festivities tomorrow. Anyone who feels they have been unjustly questioned or detained by police during a consensual encounter and are now facing criminal charges, it is encouraged to speak to a defense attorney who will ensure their Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searched and seizures are protected.

Employment Consequences Following an Arrest in Utah

Having a felony criminal record can have devastating consequences for Utah residents when it comes to finding housing and work, however even a minor arrest can result in undesirable consequences to one’s employment.

An arrest is public record

Employment After Arrest

Photo by: Dylan

When an arrest takes place, that information can instantly become public knowledge. The arrestee’s information along with facts related to the crime may be logged on a bookings page with the county sheriff or a small blurb may be written in the incident section of the local newspaper. Often this embarrassing publicity can go undetected by employers or coworkers of the person arrested. If it is noticed, which is often the result of increased coverage by the media for being a “bigger story”, it can quickly spread around the office, making the workplace unwelcoming for the defendant.

Returning to work

Returning to a place of employment following a night or two in jail should not result in anything more than awkward sideways glances from coworkers. If the arrest occurs due to illegal behavior at work however, the accused will likely be put on temporary administrative leave before being permanently terminated if or when convicted. If the arrest takes place off the clock, in a setting not remotely connected to a person’s employment, an employer is usually discouraged from releasing an employee from his job. If not, they could be in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Know your employment rights

Photo by: aj victorio

Photo by: aj victorio

For individuals who were recently arrested and are worried about the effects it will have on their career, it is important to know first what rights employees in the State of Utah have. According to the Utah Labor Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity commission regarding Title VII, employees are protected from job related discrimination following an arrest. Aside from actual convictions, especially those including felonies, an arrest cannot be used as the basis of terminating employment. As the EEOC states, “The fact of an arrest does not establish that criminal conduct has occurred. Arrests are not proof of criminal conduct. Many arrests do not result in criminal charges, or the charges are dismissed. Even if an individual is charged and subsequently prosecuted, he is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.” The EEOC adds however, that “although an arrest record standing alone may not be used to deny an employment opportunity, an employer may make an employment decision based on the conduct underlying the arrest if the conduct makes the individual unfit for the position in question. The conduct, not the arrest, is relevant for employment purposes.”

When an arrest is still used against an employee

Just because an employer cannot safely fire one of their employees based on an arrest, it doesn’t mean they won’t find other ways to punish the arrested employee. In fact, if an employer is unhappy about the arrest of their employee, and they were previously lenient about certain rules and codes of conduct related to the job description, they may increase enforcement of those rules without as much risk of retaliation from the employee. This may be the employer’s way of trying to encourage the arrestee to quit, by ensuring the workplace isn’t as enjoyable as before. Although an employee can attempt to press charges or wait for the ill feelings to eventually dissipate, some take the easier way out by finding another job where their dirty laundry isn’t known by all.

Protect your record, protect your employment

Photo by: kate hiscock

Photo by: kate hiscock

Most employers in Utah are kind and understanding following an arrest. This is particularly true if the defendant is eventually found to be innocent of all charges. The ideal way to protect your employment following an arrest is to protect your record. With any arrest, contact a criminal defense attorney to give you a better chance of walking away with a clean record and job security.