Consensual Encounters with Law Enforcement- How long can they last?

Our last blog post talked about a consensual encounter with law enforcement. Basically, if the police just walk up and start talking to you, you can leave, but they don’t have to Mirandize you. If you aren’t sure if it’s a consensual encounter or interrogation, ask if you are free to leave.

How long can a consensual encounter last in Texas? Well, since you are technically free to leave (even though you will feel pressured and threatened when an armed police officer starts asking you questions), they can last forever. That’s why it’s important to ask if you can go.

One more time what is a consensual encounter?

A consensual encounter “takes place when an officer approaches a citizen in a public place to ask questions, and the citizen is willing to listen and voluntarily answers.” Crain vState315 S.W.3d 43, 49(Tex. Crim. App. 2010) (citing State vPerez85 S.W.3d 817, 819(Tex. Crim. App. 2002); Corbin vState85 S.W.3d 272, 276 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002)).

How long can a consensual encounter last?

As long as you are willing to sit there and talk, or until you are no longer free to leave, in which case it’s no longer consensual. Which is why you don’t talk to the police unless you are asking for a lawyer, or asking if you are free to leave.

A consensual encounter does not implicate the Fourth Amendment because it is a consensual interaction, and the citizen is free to terminate the encounter at any time. Woodard341 S.W.3d at 411Crain315 S.W.3d at 49see Bostick, 501 U.S. at 434 (so long as citizen feels that he is free to disregard officer and go about his business, officer may approach and ask questions without implicating Fourth Amendment); Florida vRoyer460 U.S. 491, 498 (1983) (highlighting that in consensual encounters, individuals “may decline to listen to the questions at all and may go on [their] way”).

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