Have you thought about if you could stop someone that has committed a crime in front of you? While we are not written this to promote this act because it can be dangerous and it is better to leave confronting a criminal to law enforcement there are times that citizen’s spring into action and make a citizen’s arrest.’
So, can a citizen make an arrest? The answer is yes they can, its called a citizen’s arrest. This act has gone back as far as medieval times common law practice where law enforcement encouraged regular citizen’s to help apprehend and stop criminals.
What is a citizen’s arrest?
A citizen arrest is when someone “a citizen” and not law enforcement makes an arrest. There are many different types of laws that encompass a citizen arrest by what country the person is in. This guide will explain the process within the United States.
Do you open up yourself to lawsuits or other issues by making an arrest?
Yes. You could expose yourself to risk and a possible lawsuit or even criminal charges like unlawful restraint, kidnapping when you apprehend the wrong person. Keep in mind that a regular private citizen does not have the same type of immunity from civil issues when making an arrest on other private citizen’s the same we law enforcement officers do.
Can a private person arrest another citizen in the United States?
The short answer is yes they can. A private person can arrest another private person without a warrant when a crime occurs within that person’s presence or view. With that said the crime which is permitted will vary by state so keep this in mind. There are different types of groups that perform citizen arrest and they may be:
- Queer Nation
- Guardian Angels
- Xtreme Justice Leauge
Considerations you should make before making an arrest
Before you make a citizen’s arrest you have to wight out all the risk s that you could be taking. There are could be serious consequences you are putting yourself into. Before making a citizen’s arrest please consider a few important things:
- Your own safety is at risk and others around you. You need to know if the persons have or possess any weapons or are with others that could make the arrest potentially harmful to you.
- Is it the right move? Should you just report the crime to a law enforcement officer instead?
- Do you have enough belief that the person has committed a criminal act?
- You will have to be able to turn over the person to law enforcement once the arrest is made
You have decided to make a citizen’s arrest, now what?
If you decide that you are going to make the arrest what should you do? The below is an outline of the actions that should be taken:
- Communicate with the person or suspect that you making a citizen’s arrest and you will be holding him or her until law enforcement arrives.
- Inform the police
- If possible try and avoid using force, or use the minimum as possible
- Ask for the suspect cooperation until police arrive
- Do not search or question the suspect, a citizen’s arrest is to simply detain that person temporarily until law enforcement arrives
Common law exists in most states in the U.S.
This means that most states have a common law that an arrest can be made without a warrant by a private person for misdemeanors, breach of peace or felonies. The term Public Offense is read very closely like a breach of peace and is included felonies, infractions and also misdemeanors.
Criminal offenses that take place on your property or in relation to your proper you may either do:
- Arrest said person within a reasonable time period after finding he or she commits a crime.
- Arresting the person in the act of committing the crime
If the person commits a crime in relation to your property you have to be one of the following:
- Be the owner of the property
- Been authorized by the owner of the actual owner of the property; or
- in lawful possession of the said property
Force and making an arrest
In a lot of states, you can use as much force as required to make the necessary citizen’s arrest as long as you are doing so on reasonable grounds. Keep in mind that when you use force it must be tailored to the circumstances at hand and you will be criminally held responsible for excessive force. Also, this could lead you open to potential criminal prosecution and even civil lawsuits in any injury you may have caused.
The suspect must be identified correctly
We cannot stress this enough that making a citizen’s arrest can be dangerous and even deadly. With that said it is very important to correctly identify the person and their criminal involvement. There are many factors to consider when making a citizen’s arrest such as is there a weapon, how many suspects are involved weather conditions, and more can have an effect on how you are identifying a person or wrongly ID someone.
If you make an arrest at the time he or she is committing a crime versus within a reasonable time after observing the crime it could change the identification called into question by law enforcement.
The danger is real regardless if you try and arrest the correct or incorrect person. If you are arresting someone that is not the correct person he or she probably will not understand why you are doing this and things could turn violent quickly. You have the real risk of injury or even death by doing so.
Regardless of what you choose you should understand the potential for danger when making a citizen’s arrest. Unlike a police officer who has training, weapons, backup you will not. Always try and contact law enforcement first to make an arrest if possible.