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Can a Utah police officer ban a person from a public park even if the person is only suspected of breaking the Law?

  • Important concept: deprivation of rights under "color of law". – guest271314 Aug 6 '18 at 17:31
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Utah has a lot of public parks, so to point in the right direction, I will assume that this is a public park in Salt Lake City, it's just a plain old grassy field, and it's not during a special event. A person is suspected of some crime like selling drugs, not arrested, but told by a police officer to go away and never come back. This is way beyond the power of the police. After due legal process, a proven (not just suspected) public menace could be ordered by the court to stay away from the park.

A police officer can, of course, order a person to leave a park when they violate a park rule, in fact rule number 1 is "It is unlawful for any person to do or to allow or permit any of the acts prohibited by this chapter in any park in Salt Lake City", so the police cannot legally turn a blind eye to rule violations. Violation of park rules is an infraction which can earn you a ticket of up to $299. However, the officer can tell you to go away, rather than giving you a ticket or arresting you. But an police order cannot issue a unilateral restraining order.

Apart from city laws, there are general state laws regarding trespass and destruction of property. The state criminal trespass law says that

A person is guilty of criminal trespass if...knowing the person's... entry or presence is unlawful, the person enters or remains on to which notice against entering is given by...personal communication to the person by the owner or someone with apparent authority to act for the owner

In this case, the owner is the city, and the officer has apparent authority to act for that owner. In the case of private property, the owner or his agent has very broad authority to give notice requiring you to leave (e.g. if you don't like their politics or their shirt); but in the case of public property, the government has more narrowly circumscribed authority to kick you out.

  • "the police cannot legally turn a blind eye to rule violations." Actually, notwithstanding that statutory language, a Utah police office can turn a blind eye to rule violations without fear of civil or criminal liability. The legal protection afforded to law enforcement discretion is very great. – ohwilleke Aug 7 '18 at 1:58
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I would think that a person "only suspected of breaking the law" in a public park might be given the choice of leaving or being arrested. It's the kind of question where you'd need to know all the circumstances.

It's also possible that "suspected of breaking the law" is not the only reason, but being "reasonably assumed to be a danger to visitors to the park" might be another one. Or "being suspected of having caused major damage to the park".

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Yes, if left unchallenged.

There are people who have been verbally told by public safety agents not to return to governmental properties open to the public (indefinitely) or they will be arrested, even where no law has been alleged or even suspected as being violated; only accusations of certain words being spoken within the facility (that is, lies). (Citation: experience).

The point is all adverse actions by public safety agents which violate the individuals' Constitutional rights need to be immediately documented both privately and by means of the Fourth Estate and challenged administratively and in a court of competent jurisdiction.

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    The fact that you did what you were told when a police office made that demand does not mean that the police office had legal authority to do so. – ohwilleke Aug 7 '18 at 1:59
  • @ohwilleke Where does the question ask or the answer state that the public safety agent "had legal authority to do so"? The public safety agent was acting "under color of law". The particulars are omitted from the answer; the controversy is live. – guest271314 Aug 7 '18 at 5:31
  • Because if he is merely acting "under color of law" rather than in accordance with the law, then he is committing a civil rights violation and can be punished civilly and criminally for doing so and an injunction can issue to invalidate his purported ban. In this context "can" means "is allowed to legally" not "is physically capable of making something happen.", and merely uttering a ban doesn't make it true. – ohwilleke Aug 7 '18 at 9:27
  • @ohwilleke Did not read "can" at OP as "is allowed to legally". That language does not appear at the question, but rather can they do so, to which the answer is yes; it is done quite frequently; that is, do whatever they decide to do at the moment while acting under color of law, irrespective of the actual law. – guest271314 Aug 7 '18 at 13:27
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    Saying that their banned "under color of law" doesn't mean that they are actually banned. The term "under color of law" has no meaning outside of civil rights lawsuits. I can say that I own the Brooklyn Bridge and that doesn't make it true. – ohwilleke Aug 7 '18 at 14:54

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