What is an FBI agent supposed to do when witnessing a petty and/or non federal crime?

I guess I’m on a bit of a law enforcement kick today. What exactly would an FBI Agent be expected to do upon witnessing a petty crime and/or a crime not typically falling within the FBI’s jurisdiction. My understanding is that FBI Agents typically dress in normal business attire and appear more like white collar professionals than law enforcement personnel to the general public, and thus would probably fall below the radar of a petty criminal. So if an agent were to observe a shoplifter while shopping or a potential purse snatching while walking down the street, would they intervene, pass on the details to local police, or just ignore it as an unnecessary distraction? Like I said, my question assumes that said agent is not appearing or acting in a manner that would mark them as law enforcement personnel to the typical observer. However, assume that this is not a situation where he or she is working undercover and would compromise a larger, more important operation.

Unless it’s a 'clear and present danger" he is supposed to call it in. Most ignore it, some say quietly " FBI. Now stop that."

Here’s one that I’ve always wanted to know the answer to, but nobody has ever been able to furnish me with a cohesive response. It is illegal in California to record somebody without telling them (if there’s a reasonable expectation of privacy). But there are no federal laws against it. So if I secretly record somebody telling me about a criminal act they’re committed and there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, then there’s nothing that a California cop or prosecutor can do with it, and it would also be inadmissible in a civil proceeding. So it’s worthless. But what if I secretly record a protected conversation in California, but then play the recording for an FBI agent. Can the recording then be used to prosecute the person at the federal level, or is the FBI agent going to waggle his finger at me and say “no-no” because I violated California law?

What if the recording is in a public space? Is that still a violation?

A Secret Service Agent stopped an attempted robbery June 21. I would think that any LEO would do the same regardless of jurisdiction. Are they professionally required too? <shrug> Not sure.

Something really petty like shoplifting? That’s something that might get ignored. A Federal cop might just report it to the store employee like any regular citizen. Making an arrest would generate a lot of paperwork and interviews with the local cops over a non-violent crime.

That’s a good question, and one that I’ve never been fully able to piece together the answer to, despite years of amateur-lawyer Internet research. If it’s a public address (such as a politician giving a campaign speech), then absolutely—there’s no question about it. It’s perfectly legal. But what if you’re walking down the street and the police stop you and want to talk to you. You’re on a public sidewalk. If you whip out your iPod and tell them that they’re being recorded whether they like it or not, do they have any legal authority to prevent you from doing so? That one I’m not sure about.

An FBI agent is merely a citizen, who has certain law enforcement powers at certain times under certain conditions.

Any person is entitled to make a “citizen’s arrest” if (and only if) there is a crime in progress and an arrest is necessary to abort the crime. So in the case of shoplifting, for example, an FBI agent would be expected to do what a citizen could do, which would be to communicate as quickly as possible to store security that a crime is in progress, attempt without physical restraint to deter the suspect, and become prepared to present any necessary evidence for a prosecution.

The physical restraint question could be touchy. If the suspect still represents a danger to public safety or the store’s property, certain levels of restraint could be justified within the LE training of the agent, such as blocking the suspect’s escape with shoplifted property.

Having said that, the FBI agent would also be presumed to be knowledgeable about things like rules of evidence and observation of incriminating behavior, and so would be a more useful witness in assisting store personnel to evaluate the situation and address the remedy, and like any citizen, would be expected to render service if helpful to do so. Obviously, if the shoplifter drops the merchandise and walks out of the store, our agent/bystander has no authority to detain him, nor for that matter does store security. The crime can be forestalled simply by saying to the shoplifter “I saw you put that in your pocket, and I’m going to report to security that you appear to be a shrinkage risk”, and if the shoplifter puts it back on the shelf, no crime has been committed.

A few years ago at JazzFest Bob Dylan was performing on stage. We were standing, and a joint was being passed. Sitting on the ground in front of us were two couples. They seemed uninterested in what was going on (one guy was reading a newspaper, in fact).

One of the guys turned around and showed us his FBI creds. Yikes. We all froze, me with the joint in my hand. I swallowed what was left of it. Fifteen minutes later they got up and left. It was the definition of “buzzkill” but it gave us a good story to tell.

While local and state police, etc., are generally permitted, at least by federal case law, to arrest for federal crimes, it is not true for the reverse.

In the “traditional” sense, an ARREST is transporting a person to a court/police station to answer for a crime.

Since they are constrained by the 4th AM, would the seizure be “reasonable” or “UNreasonable” to detain them or “restrain them of thier liberty” until a local officer were called? I think it would meet 4th AM dictates.

Federal policy/agency police, may be another matter?

Ih Ohio, as a comparison, we have arrest laws and a statute titled “Restraint of liberty”. A private citizen can only arrest for a felony here, but restraining a person of thier liberty is not necessarily an arrest, per case law.

Another strange example is, the Ohio Highway Patrol has little “criminal law” jurisdiction off of state property according to Title 55, although they have the same power of “search and seizure” as any other Peace Officer, which would mean a restraint of liberty in certain matters not within thier statutory elements for an arrest.

As discussed before I imagine, it is permissable to record another by video/audio, only if state law permits it, called a “one party” OR “two party” state. If it is a 1 party state, there is no expectation of privacy, as the law permits it. You need to check CA’s laws on this. It is usually found in the wiretap laws or search engine phone recordings for states or such.

The feds have different Exclusionary Rule law at times, then the states shave. That would take some looking into.
I do know from past research Texas has a strange ER, usually only evidence obtained from a CONSTITUTIONAL violation is not admissable, but TX also has a STATUTORY violation ER. I think the feds only concern themselves with federal Constitutional violations, not state, constitutional or statutory, and additionally, unless the fed violated it, it is admissable, I have a case for that in my head, as soon as I think of it.

This is the case, it may or may not help answer your question.
http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/401/745/case.html