What's the deal on citizen's arrest?

In the US, that is. How is it done? On what grounds? Can someone “resist arrest?” If so, can he be cited for “resisting arrest?”

Citizen’s arrests involve I, seeing you, Galen, committing a crime (or otherwise knowing you have), and then grabbing you and taking you down to the police station. You can, of course try to stop me, and, assuming you don’t hurt or kill me, won’t be charged with anything. You can’t be charged with “resisting arrest” because I’m not an officer of the law. Citizens arrest proceedures are basically what makes bounty hunting possible.

Here’s my WAG on citizen’s arrest:

Normally, it’s unlawful for a private citizen to take somebody into custody. It’s known as kidnapping. An exception to this occurs when you witness somebody committing certain kinds of crimes. Then you are “privileged” to take them into custody and deliver them to the police. i.e., the arrestee can’t (successfuly?) sue you for wrongful imprisonment and you can’t (shouldn’t?) be prosecuted. This is a citizen’s arrest.

What if I saw a guy slip a magazine under his jacket? Could I haul him to the local sheriff’s office?

Speaker for the Dead: Yes, you could, but you probably shouldn’t (simply for reasons of your own protection).

A citizen’s arrest in one in which a citizen who does not have the a governmental right to make an arrest (e.g. not a police officer) arrests a person who has:

  1. Committed a public offense in the presence of the citzen making the arrest.
  2. Committed a felony (a crime punishable by more that 1 year in prison). The arresting citizen must have reasonable cause for making the arrest, although the felony does not have to be committed in the presence of the arresting citizen.

You do have the right to take the person into custody, and they generally can be charged with resisting arrest if they resist you (your jurisdiction may vary). They cannot be charged with “assaulting a police officer” (although they could be charged with assault) or with “failure to obey a police officer” for obvious reasons.

As the arresting citizen you do not have to read them their rights since you are not a police officer.

Essetially, as stated already, the person making the citizen’s arrest cannot be prosecuted for wrongful imprisonment. They are not; however, immune from civil suits for excessive force, and hence also could be held for assault, just like a police officer who uses excessive force. For this reason, as well as for your own physical protection, I would tend to recommend that people not making citizen’s arrest.

This always conjures up a great image of two people fighting:

“All right, that’s it! I’m placing you under Citizen’s Arrest!”

“No, YOU’RE under Citizen’s Arrest!”

<and so forth.>

ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!* (unless maybe it was a $301 magazine, which would make it a felony. Or if the thief was caught and started fighting to get away with it, which would make it a robbery; a felony.)

Here is the Straight Dope on citizen’s arrest.

First of all the offense must be a FELONY and you must KNOW it is a felony. You cannot just guess and say, “Well that’s gotta be illegal!” You have to know it is.
Second, the offense must be committed in your presence. So if someone says “I saw that guy rape that girl over there here is proof: I got it on film.” You cannot do anything about this but call the cops. You can have all the evidence and probable cause in the world, but if YOU did not SEE the crime committed by the person, you cannot make a citizen’s arrest.

Third, you can only detain the suspect in a reasonable manner while the cops come pick him up. And you have to call the police right away. You cannot transport the criminal to the police station or anywhere else. You can only hold him there at the scene and wait for cops.
Bounty Hunting has to do with Bond Jumpers and Bench Warrants which is completely different than a citizen’s arrest.

*Some crimes like Retail Theft or Defrauding an InnKeeper (not paying at a restaraunt) allow the store employees to detain the suspects and call the police. If the management happened to ask for your assistance in holding someone, or catching someone, then it would probably be ok for you to get involved. But if you just see someone steal something in a retail store, you better not go trying anything. You have no authority to do so- only the employees do. But, like I mentioned earlier, if the theft is over 300 bucks or becomes a felony for other reasons, it’s fair game. Tackle that sonuvabitch and hold him for the cops. Later in court, tell the jury you though digging your heel into the side of his face was a reasonable detention. :smiley:

I hope that cleared up the matter…

Oh yeah, and BTW,

If the criminal kicks your ass and gets away, he cannot get resisting charges. So, if you’re not really big, or if you don’t carry a big stick or something, leave citizen’s arrests alone. You could get really hurt. There is nothing preventing the person from really hurting you. You never know what kind of weapons the person may have.

FYI, citizen’s arrests are what allow security guards to actually detain someone while the cops come.

Stealing a magazine is petty (petite) larceny, which is only a misdeamanor, and like traffic offenses, are not amenable to citizens’ arrests. Maximum fine under SC law is under $1,000.

The laws on Citizen’s Arrest vary widely.

For example, the law in the District of Columbia states:

Note, that it makes no claim about not being able to transport the suspect, only that the felon must be turned over to an officer without reasonable delay.

In Tennessee & California, for example, they do not require the crime to be committed in the presence of the citizen (although they do in Distict of Columbia).

California does not require that the act be a felony, but if it is not a felony then the offense must have been committed in the presense of the arresting citizen.

Some states allow lethal force to be used (Kentucky). Others don’t (Utah).

Obviously, before making a citizen’s arrest it would be wise to be familiar with the local statutes on it.

For any fellow Canucks reading this, the Canadian Criminal Code requires you to find the person in the act of committing a felony. You are not allowed to make a citizen’s arrest for other offenses, or based on reasonable cause.

Shit! Guess I’ll cancel my trip to Louisville this summer. Can’t take the chance that some good ol’ boy might mistake me for a felon. Bummer!

Great info Glitch. BTW, I apologize for not pointing out that all my info represents that straight dope on citizen’s arrests in Florida.
Ya know, I actually thought this was a federal thing like Miranda or something. I did not realize it was different everywhere, or I would have informed the readers of my location.

Back in school in the 70’s a teacher in a U.S. Government class I had told us that despite what the law says about allowing Citizens Arrest under certain circumstances, it was a very unwise thing to do. He said that you would almost certainly have your pants sued off, regardless of the crime committed or the guilt of the perpetrator. Also, in regard to comments stating that you can’t be charged with false imprisonment, this teacher said that of the civil offenses you could be sued for after making a citizens arrest, false imprisonment was the chief one. I sure wouldn’t want half my paycheck each week going to some jailbird I helped put away.

Two different animals, larry. We were talking about being charged with a criminal offense. You would not be charged with false imprisonment, since you do not get charged for civil torts. However, you are correct in that you would definitely be sued. You have not committed any crime, so you cannot be charged with anything. But if the suspect feels you wrongfully imprisoned him, then he could sue you. Hopefully he would not win.
You can be sued for just about anything!! This is civil law. It has nothing to do with being charged with a crime and arrested by the police.
I mentioned in another thread something similar. I talked about how if you shot someone in self defense because he was breaking into your home, you would not be charged with a crime. However, the dead thief’s wife or family would most definiely sue your ass for damages, pain and suffering, kids’ college etc.

The point is, citizen’s arrests are an unwise thing for someone to try every single time he gets the chance. It is something for a citizen to use if necessary or if an emergency or some other situation. You will not be charged with a crime if you do it correctly, but you always risk lawsuits. And worse, you could get hurt.

I guess my sentence was a bit disorganized. I was saying how false imprisonment may not be a big criminal matter, but it sure is a big civil matter. I agree with you about how circumstances could override any legal hassles you may encounter in the wake. It’s something like the old saying: “I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6”.

Has anyone ever been sued for not making a citizens arrest?

I saw a ‘COPS’ where the police officer wouldn’t arrest the criminal, but asked if the citizen was going to. As soon as the guy said “I place you under citizen’s arrest.” The cop hand-cuffed the criminal and threw him into the car…

Strange I thought.

…Each state has its own laws governing exactly how citizen’s arrest. For example (and you all can look this up if you don’t believe me), in badass Kentucky, if you detain someone in a citizen’s arrest, and they “resist,” it is perfectly LEGAL TO KILL THEM if the situation warrants it.