What is a Citizen’s Arrest?

Medieval England was the first country to give partial law enforcement authority or the Citizen’s Arrest, and documentation spelled out each country’s laws. A citizen’s arrest is a private citizen not sworn in to uphold the law makes A citizen’s arrest.

In the modern era, citizen arrest is practiced very little because of the threat of lawsuits and kidnapping charges. In America, they legalized the practice in  1863 when southerners still considered slavery legal. 

Under specific codes and jurisdictions, citizen arrests are lawful in limited situations. Two terms are fundamental if citizens take it upon themselves to arrest and detain another citizen. Each state has its interpretation of the validity, limits, and consequences.

Significant Points That Need to be Made

Probable cause is the belief that a crime is present or underway at the place to be searched. As part of the Fourth Amendment, there is still no exact rule for “probable cause.” The probable case action stays a fluent piece of legislation where states have the burden.

Reasonable Doubt is a belief that any other reasonable, prudent person would assume a crime is being committed on the premises. The Supreme Court further defines reasonable suspicion as requiring more than an unarticulated hunch. The legality of a police officer’s suspicion is held accountable and allowed freedoms.

One of the most prominent cases of citizen arrest was the shooting death of Ahmad Arbery. Arbery killers made a citizen’s arrest part of their defense. Two of the killers were given life without parole, and the third member was granted parole after approximately 30 years. The case was all about hate.

citizen's arrest

How To Make A Citizen’s Arrest

  1. The first step a citizen must accomplish without delay, should they see a crime in progress or something similar, is to determine if the action is a felony or a breach of peace. In some states, it is required to see crimes firsthand, regardless of whether it is a felony or a misdemeanor. No matter the circumstance, citizens must believe that a crime is being committed.
  2. Safety first is always the best course of action; ensuring you can physically restrain an individual is a wise determination. Any situation a person might encounter has the potential to escalate into something uncontrollable quickly.

NOTE: Never get involved if a firearm is present; always refer to the police. Once you take action against another citizen, prepare for the consequences. Do not make a citizen’s arrest or get involved unless you can face the risk of false imprisonment or assault and battery.

  1. No specific words exist to tell a person, “You Are Making A Citizen’s Arrest.” The citizen opposite you must fully understand what is happening and why. Do not make a citizen’s arrest unless you can answer the same two questions.

NOTE: Some states require the exact charges to be read at any citizen’s arrest. It is wise not to be overly dramatic and let the police handle everything.

  1. With reasonable force, you must detain the person until the police arrive. Using greater force than needed exposes the person to additional legal trouble. Immediately call the police once the person has been detained. Again, in some states, the person must deliver the arrested person to a judge or peace officer. Transporting any suspect without prior authorization could result in false imprisonment charges.

Most citizen arrests are going to be all about common sense. The most critical factor when determining a citizen’s arrest is “Did you see the crime take place?” if not, call the authorities. Overhearing someone talking about robbing a bank is not enough evidence.

For a citizen’s arrest to be legal, it must be witnessed, or the crime must have already occurred, and documentation must exist.

Fourth Amendment

The fourth amendment is one of the most critical pieces of legislation on the books. The Fourth Amendment enforces the idea that a home is a person’s castle and protects its citizens from unlawful search and seizure. The Fourth Amendment is a basis of law for arbitrary arrests, search warrants, and stop and frisk.

In the 50s and 60s, Citizen Arrests were made by bungling deputy sheriffs and a show of force. It can now get a person in a lot of trouble. False arrests and use of deadly force could follow, with the potential of ensuing lawsuits.

  • False imprisonment could be one of the first charges against you.
  • False arrest is the unlawful holding of another person without probable cause.

One of the foundational tenants of the Fourth Amendment is “Reasonable Search and Seizure.” Four main sections for the clause have been set. Persons, houses, papers, and effects are secure against unreasonable search and seizure, and no one shall not violate those rights.

Should citizen arrest laws be abolished at the federal level? Calls for the abolishment of the law have been vocal for years. There are plenty of instances where a valid citizen’s arrest is needed, and there are those times when it is foolhardy. Vigilante-style justice cannot be allowed to take hold in America.

When vigilante justice takes hold in America, it is always more about power than justice. Vigilantes taking the law into their own hands and dispensing justice seem to be on the rise as more people become frustrated at their station in life. Vigilantes are highly protective of their own and have carried out their brand of justice in all parts of the world.

If a person feels their life is in danger, does this allow them to become judge, jury, and executioner? The American legal system defines what its citizens can expect when dealing with the law. Under vigilante justice, you do not know who to trust.

There is a good case for keeping a citizen arrest law on the books. Police cannot be everywhere, and a well-meaning citizen can be an asset. People crossing the line from good Samaritan to TV Cop should be held accountable.

Understand a Citizen’s Arrest Before Attempting One

Whenever a citizen wants to control another person physically, that citizen must think of the consequences first. Is the action justified, or is it easier to call the police? The first action in any of these circumstances must be to call law enforcement.