« Back to Home

Citizen's Arrest: Real Or Myth?

Posted on

You can actually be arrested by a private citizen, but it can only be done under certain circumstances. While this category of arrest does not have to meet the same strict constitutional requirements as that of law enforcement there are still rules that must be observed. When those rules are not followed you can actually file a personal injury lawsuit against the citizen that unlawfully detained you. If you or someone you know has been the subject of one of these types of arrests, read on to find out more.

Has a crime been committed?

The prime standard for a citizen's arrest is that the arresting citizen must be reasonably sure that a crime has actually been committed. You cannot just have a strong suspicion, believe a rumor or decide that someone is guilty of a crime; there has to be proof that the person did commit a crime. It should also be mentioned that there must actually be a crime.

Since most normal citizens without law enforcement training don't always understand or have knowledge of the law, mistakes can occur. Finally, the crime must have already occurred for a citizen's arrest to be valid. Future potential acts should be reported to the police, but you cannot arrest someone for just thinking or talking about a crime. Threats are another matter, however.

Felonies only, please

In most cases, these types of arrests are confined to felonies. Few people probably understand what makes a crime a felony, however. The issue of whether or not a crime is a felony does not rest entirely with the seriousness of the crime, but with the sentencing. If you can go to prison for it then it might be a felony. Misdemeanors are usually non-violent crimes that involve little to no jail time. Unless you are in the business of law you might not want to attempt to detain someone for a crime that falls into a gray area. Murder, rape, arson, robbery and others are just a few felonies, but there are many more.

Use of force

In some cases, a perpetrator must be restrained to prevent them from leaving the scene, but the amount of force used is regulated. Deadly force can only be used in extreme circumstances and a citizen that takes it upon themselves to use deadly force to stop a person can be held criminally liable. The key is to use just enough force to restrain someone without doing more harm than is necessary. Using self-defense is always allowable if you feel personally threatened, however.

If you have been the victim of an overeager citizen attempting to make an arrest in an unlawful manner you may have a cause of action against them. Visit a law firm like Buckley  Law Office today.