Can you really make a "citizen's arrest"?

Can someone actually do this to detain someone until the propar authorities arrive? Wouldn’t someone doing this, automatically violate the rights of the person they are “arresting” since the are not the “authorities”?

Drollman: Over 200 posts with a spelling mistake!

The OP seems to have the idea that people have a “right” to only be arrested by “the authorities”. This is not so. In a common-law jurisdiction, every citizen possesses the common-law power of arrest.

Cecil’s column on the subject appears here, and is an excellent beginning on the subject, and its existence serves as a helpful reminder to search before you post.

  • Rick

Mea culpa…But I did search “citizen’s arrest” and didn’t get that info.

Anyway, asked and (sort of) answered…just the way I like it.

Drollman…voer 200 posts with a spelling mistake!

In Cecil’s column he says all citizens have a common law power of arrest. I pretty sure in Illinois as part of statutes common law has been eliminated.

“I pretty sure in Illinois as part of statutes common law has been eliminated.”

  1. No, the common law still stands in Illinois until a particular part of it is changed or eliminated by statute.

5 ILCS 50/1: That the common law of England, so far as the same is applicable and of a general nature, and all statutes or acts of the British parliament made in aid of, and to supply the defects of the common law, prior to the fourth year of James the First, excepting the second section of the sixth chapter of 43d Elizabeth, the eighth chapter of 13th Elizabeth, and ninth chapter of 37th Henry Eighth, and which are of a general nature and not local to that kingdom, shall be the rule of decision, and shall be considered as of full force until repealed by legislative authority.

  1. Citizen arrest has been expressly authorized in the statutes.

725 ILCS 5/107-3, Arrest by private person: Any person may arrest another when he has reasonable grounds to believe that an offense other than an ordinance violation is being committed.

Great, BZ00000!

I don’t suppose you have a cite for the proposition that the common law is eliminated in Illinois, do you?

I’m no expert on Illinois law, but a quick glance at the Illinois Compiled Statutes reveals 5 ICLS 50, which provides in pertinent part:

This is helpfully titled the “Common Law Act” of Illinois.

When was it repealed, BZ00000?

  • Rick

John - curse yer fast, and more complete, typing!


Does common law extend to making a citizen’s arrest of a police officer breaking the law? How would you go a about it?

I don’t know how many times I have been passed on a highway at night by a highway patrolman driving 90-100 mph without his (flashing) lights on. I always wonder if whoever he is going after is doing something as dangerous as the officer.

The (trained to drive fast) Police Officer needs to be able to catch the (not trained to drive fast) drunk 18 year old in the Civic that is about to run into a light pole and kill himself/swerve into oncoming traffic taking out an SUV full of orphans/driving through a circus exciting the elephants thus causing a murderous stampede. The reason his lights (flashing) are not on is that he doesn’t want the drunk to think he can run. They (generally) don’t turn them on until they are up your ass (don’t quote me on that). So the answer to what you are always wondering is yes, the guy he is chasing is probably doing something more (much more usually) than the cop.

I’ve seen cops flash their lights on, run a red light, and then turn them off.

Here’s the thing though-say I make a citizen’s arrest-and the person beats the crap out of me?

Then the person, Guinastasia, is also guilty of assault.

Your query points out the questionable wisdom of exercising the legal power of a citizen’s arrest. :slight_smile:

Actually, I wonder if a citizen’s arrest is meaningful in any way shape or form? Are there any legal repercussions to blowing off someone who just made a citizen’s arrest? Can resisting arrest be added to whatever else it is you’ve done wrong? Unless there is some teeth to back-up the ‘law’ then the law is essentially pointless and meaningless as far as I can see.

The term, “common law,” BTW, began during the reign of Henry Plantagenet (Henry II, 1154-1189), who initiated many legal reforms. He transformed the Curia Regis into a regular court of trained officials and lawyers. He dismissed feudal sheriffs and replacd them with those men. Others were made into a special court of justice, the King’s Bench, and he sent out traveling judges, Justices in Eyre, who carried a “common law” into every Shire Court of the country. This royal justice was popular because it was cheaper and less arbitrary than that of the feudal courts, and because the jury system began to replace trial by combat.

The most common use of citizen’s arrest is in the case of shoplifters. The store security guard (who is a citizen, not a member of an official police force) can grab the shoplifter either in the store or outside and detain him until law enforcement authorities arrive.

The power of citizen’s arrest is not intended to create more legal problems for the suspect, but to reduce legal problems for the citizen doing the arresting. If I grab a guy on the street and hold him prisoner, I’m going to be in trouble. OTOH, if a guy steals my purse, and I then run after him and hold him prisoner, I’m conducting a citizen’s arrest, and assuming that the subsequent police investigation finds that the arrest was reasonable, I won’t be charged with anything. It’s basically the power to prevent someone caught red-handed from getting away.

Looking for real-life examples, I found this one from England involving actor Peter Davison, who grabbed and held a guy who stole his video camera until police arrived.


Ooops, sorry pal.